Monday 18 December 2017

Vodka and app smugglers must be made to pay - or else exiled from Main Street

Bookmakers like Ladbrokes in Ireland are finding it difficult to keep their shops open due to increasing overheads
Bookmakers like Ladbrokes in Ireland are finding it difficult to keep their shops open due to increasing overheads
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There's a woman who says to us, 'It's not easy to make a living on the side of a hungry street'. So true. Main Street Ireland is fighting to keep our towns, villages and cities open for business.

Even bookies are going broke. We saw Ivan Yates's Celtic Bookmakers go to the wall after the Celtic Tiger collapse. Now, Ladbrokes in Ireland has been placed in examinership due to "financial difficulties" which means there will be shop closures.

I like bookies. They always have an opinion and the good ones will spend some of the money we lose in our pub. It's called cash-back. Be careful. Too much betting is nearly worse than too much drink.

Lives have been ruined but there's a difference between moderation and addiction although there are many Puritans in this country who have trouble in making the distinction. Soon enough they'll be calling for a ban against drinking tea out of saucers because people like doing it.

Anyway, this bookie was being fiddled by one of his staff. The bookie caught the culprit in the act and when he asked why, the guilty party replied: "My father told me it was okay to rob bookies". And it's still going on. Are you robbing your local bookie?

We will make an analogy with another endangered species. There might well be truth in the rumour that your local publican could be minded and preserved by the World Wildlife Fund. All I can say is, ye'll miss us when we are gone.

This lad bought a glass of wine for his beloved. I charged him a fiver and he replied, "I can get this for a euro a glass up in the supermarket."

I'm getting crankier as the years go by and braver too, what with only the one child left in college. So I said to the man who was complaining, "Well why don't you go to supermarket see if Mr Aldi stays listening to you talking shite for the next two hours."

Yes, I can empathise with the Main Street bookies. Not High Street mind. High Street is an English expression. There is a High Street in Cork. Billy Morgan comes from around that part of the city.

I still can't figure out why he isn't managing his beloved county but let's call the town centre centrepieces Main Street. Although, come to think of it, "mean" as in being tight with money is pronounced "main" in most country places. But most shopkeepers are decent people doing their best against the net regulation and hidden charges.

Sorry for straying away yet again but I'm upset and I share the bookies' pain for I too am the victim of freeloaders. One of the worst crimes committed in this country is the smuggling in of naggins into pubs. The nagginers pour drops of vodka into their soft drinks when they think we're not looking. But we know from watching the nagginers staggering around after drinking one orange for three hours.

The bookies too are hosting freeloaders. Here's how it's done. Robbing the bookies, that is. And I'm not talking about taking a few free pens or using the dockets to write out shopping lists.

I was watching in Eric and Berkie Browne's betting shop here in Listowel. This lad comes in and he's from out of town.

Full of himself with cufflinks and a dear shirt so well ironed he must have left it in the path of a bulldozer. He's wearing sunglasses indoors and his accent is somewhere between LA and BT. So he asks me if there's a coffee machine that does latte. Eric and Berkie do instanto and it's free.

Now I wouldn't mind if it was some poor misfortunate who is down on his luck. We live in tough times. The bookies is a resting place for those with little to do and nowhere to go and no money to spend when they reach nowhere to go.


The Brownes are good-hearted and do not begrudge the good people though Declan 'Bags' Sheehy, a key member of the firm, told me he saw a man eat seven packs of biscuits in a day and here's the twist, he asked for more. Declan reckons there would be a revolution in this country but for the bookies' drop-in centres.

So the lad with the pressed shirt pushes his glasses up on top of his head and starts at the phone. I put on the reading glasses and, as he's smal, I take a peep over his shoulder. The buck is backing Don Poli online. He's another form of Nagginer.

This smarmy git never probably never did any more work than to take the stones out of olives or pop the cork off prosecco bottles, while the Brownes are battling all hours against the odds.

So here's Eric and Berkie giving out more free food than a soup kitchen and this pup wearing pointy shoes and a purple pants has the cheek to start cheering on his horse out loud as if to say look at what a smart boy am I being deadly clever by catching the bookies twice.

It nearly put me off Punchestown, our second favourite meeting, so cannily and imaginatively managed by Dick O'Sullivan.

The cheek of that punter to cheer on a horse he backed in another place. It's like the old saying often used by us publicans to prevent drunks who have done their drinking in another establishment from singing in ours. "Do your sneezing where you got your snuff."

It's time the concept of corkage was brought into pubs and betting shops. It's even high time. If you are betting online in the bookies' or drinking cheap vodka in the toilets of our pubs well then we should be allowed to carry out searches.

Or is that going a small bit too far?

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