Tuesday 12 February 2019

My Child Wants to Bet on the Grand National?

It's not quite as embarrassing as a child asking about the birds and the bees. 

In this conversation, your child asks about horses. That little brown-haired sponge who absorbs information like Einstien's notebook has noticed I like a bet. In fact, a small army of children will be listening to mums, dads and grandparents as they mention the upcoming Grand National. 

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, it's a question every gambling parent must consider wisely. Sure, you can stand on the moral ground if you have never placed a bet.

''Bingo isn't like betting'', says the wife. 

Grandpa says, ''It never done me any harm''. 

While a passing policeman says, ''You know it's illegal to place a bet until you are 18 years of age. 

So little Mark Thomas Sponge says: ''Well, can I bet on the Grand National?

I'll leave you with that problem while you explain the birds and the bees.

I can only talk from my perspective - right or wrong. My dad loved a bet and I can only imagine I was fascinated by the Grand National. Why? Because my dad loved it and he talked about Red Rum. How a thoroughbred racehorse trained by a man called Ginger McCain won the ''National'' three times. It seemed more interesting than my Action Man, as I awaited the new Jungle Bridge Kit accessory. 

I remember seeing my uncle Roy play on the one-armed bandit at the social club. I seemed to find myself watching those reels go round and hearing the money pumping out when four oranges come up, but hoping it would be melons as that paid £50. 

I got told off a few times because he loved to gamble his small wins. That £1 could become two or three. I must have been more prudent as I kept pressing the button to collect before he had a chance to gamble. 

''Don't do that!'' he said. 

It didn't stop me. 

He kept telling me over the next hour as he played the slot machine. I guess I must have stopped collecting at some point but I really can't remember. 

For so many people gambling is a beastly word. It's shunned like a social leper. But for every gambler, there is a first time they put that coin in a slot machine more interested in the toy they can win than cold, hard cash. 

I remember playing the one-armed bandits as a child when holidaying at Caister-on-sea. I loved a good gamble. It was one of those now antique slot machines with the bronze native America Indian head on the front. All chrome and smelling of oil. The reels stopped with a shudder. I loved that machine.

As it happened, betting as a child made me appreciate gambling for what it is. I rarely play fruit machine these days as they are fixed odds meaning long term you cannot win. So, I learned a few things from a misspent childhood let alone youth. 

Do I still gamble? Yes. Why? Because it became my business and profession that pays me very well. It's actually a hobby which turned into a ''job''. 

Would I let a child of mine gamble underage? I guess I could only answer that question when the time arrives. And that is something unlikely to happen at my time of life.