Thursday 8 December 2016

The odds don't look good to me

John Masterson

Published 18/04/2016 | 02:30

David Mullins celebrates winning the Crabbie's Grand National on Rule The World
David Mullins celebrates winning the Crabbie's Grand National on Rule The World

Last weekend the Aintree Grand National was won by a horse called Rule The World. It was ridden by a 19-year-old Kilkenny jockey and I didn't have a penny on it. I say this because it is the one race that people who have no interest in gambling put a few quid on. I just forgot, but I like to think that I might have put a fiver on because I admire Mouse Morris and Michael O'Leary as well. But then I would have had to drive to the betting shop and I am apparently one of the few people left who do not have a gambling account on their phone. Or so it seems.

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Every day of the week we hear of young people, usually male and often sporty, who run up huge gambling debts before facing up to the inevitable. It is a silent curse. At least if you drink too much people can see it. But you can gamble away a house without anyone suspecting. And just like adding 'drink responsibly' at the end of a beer advert has questionable impact, suggesting that one gamble only what one can afford to lose falls on deaf ears.

For four days last week I was a couch potato waiting for Rory McIlroy to win the Masters, get it out of his system, and then go on a winning spree that will last for years. I had never fully taken in just how much advertising there is for gambling - and in all sorts of tantalising ways. I was told it would 'bring the game to life'. Well I am sorry but every putt Rory missed put years on me so I was living the horror with him. It was suggested that I would have 'a stake in the game'. I had, and it was a tough weekend. It would take me 'closer to every sport'. I couldn't have been any closer if I was in Augusta. I could 'be part of the action'. I was tempted by that one as there were a few three-footers that I would have been happier to try myself and give Rory a rest.

I listen to the radio a lot. We are constantly being told what the odds are on all sporting events. Open the papers and you can bet on The Voice - frankly I do not want to be brought any closer in that case. We have become a country where gambling is the norm. I don't like what it is doing to us. Virtually every event that one would place a bet on is an event that is engaging in its own right. I have sat on the edge of my chair more often than I care to remember willing a tight match to end. I am in the 'now' and fully engaged. That is what sport is about. If I was going to win €100, or lose €20, that engagement would change.

I don't care what the odds are on another election in 2016 either.

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