Since the Betting and Gaming Act, life has been made considerably easier for the British bookmaker.  To set up shop he has only to procure a bookmaker’s permit and license.  This he does by making an application to the appropriate authorities and sending a copy within seven days to the local chief of police.  Then he must publish “by means of advertisement in a gaming news paper a notice of the making of his application.”  This notice must state that “anyone objecting to the  granting of this permit must within 14 days after the publication of the notice, send to the appropriate clerk of the authorities two copies of the statement of the grounds of his objections.”  Provided there are no valid objections, the bookie receives his license in a few weeks after paying a fee equaling $ 280.  (These license, incidentally, do not automatically allow a bookmaker to operate on a racecourse or dog track.  The right of entry to these is still controlled by the individual managements.)

The larger a bookmaker’s business is, of course, the more complex it becomes.  The William Hill Organization in Britain, which claims to serve over 2,000,000 racing and football-pools customers, has over 300 highly trained telephonists  on its huge staff.  (The Organization trains its own telephonists and settlers.) Their job is to take the bets down as they come in, recording the time at which they were taken, and place them on conveyor belts that carry them to the field tables where they are entered into the field books.

The new $ 5,600,000 Hill building in London has its own up-to-date printing plant, an underground parking area with special delivery bays for the armored vans that collect and deliver the postal bets, and air-conditioning plant, and a staff restaurant that accommodates 450 people – a far cry from the small second-floor room where William Hill his bookmaking business. Hill’s business is an example of professional gambling at its efficient –and its most affluent, for Hill is sometimes called upon to pay out over $ 2,800,000 a week to winning bettors.  In 1961 he paid out $ 3,133,144 in one day to football-pools winners.

Today, with the appearance of schools providing comprehensive courses in bookmaking, the aspiring British bookmaker can get his poker experience in a comparatively easy way.  The London School of Turf Accountancy, for example, runs both evening and correspondence courses on every aspect of bookmaking; from “control and co-ordination of staff” to “hedging” and “ tote odds.”  It costs from $ 56 to enroll for such a course.

A glance at some of the section headings in the School’s “Complete Course for Manager and Bookmaker” shows how involved and technical a bookmaker’s job can be.  Some of the headings for the chapter on settling bets provide a good example: “using all three systems to calculate Mixed Doubles, Trebles, and Accumulators”; “Using the Pyramid Block system to calculate the number of Doubles, Trebles, and Accumulators in a given number of selections when two or more of them are in the same race”; “Using either the Pyramid Block or Crash Block to settle mixed E.W. Doubles, Trebles, and Accumulators, when two or three selections are placed in the same race.”

We needn’t complicate our story by going into the art of settling.  Another chapter, entitled “The Field Book,” gives a less technical but equally enlightening glance into the bookmaker’s world.  Here are the opening paragraphs:
“Let us visualize a large bookmaking organization with, say, 100 or more telephones which are continually in use during the course of a horse racing day.  It stands to reason that the bookmaker needs to have some idea of his liabilities on each race.  To get this information he refers to his field book, where he sees at a glance the amount of money he has taken on a particular race and also the amount he will win or lose on each runner.

The receiving room for off-track bets at the William Hill Organization in London.  Regular clients may phone to find out the latest odds (written on the blackboard at the end of the room) and to place bets on a credit basis.  Bottom left, the kind of book kept by on track bookmakers’ clerks in Britain.  The book gives a complete record of bets made, the odds given for each bet, and the number of the bettor’s ticket for each bet.

An example of the numbered tickets that bookies give as receipts.  Bettors must produce these tickets when collecting their winnings.

“As each bet is received over the telephone, it is conveyed to a second person (generally the boss or his manager ) for perusal.  He in turn calls out this amount to the man in control of the field book and it is duly entered against the name of a runner.  The bet is then given to a settler for his attention when the race is over.  It is essential for the field book operator to be fully abreast of his work, as the onus or responsibility for correctly assessing the amount of money on each runner rests entirely with him.  The bookmaker may enquire at any time for the stakes he is holding for a particular horse, and that figure must be given to him immediately.  He compares this figure with the odds quoted at the time, and decides whether he may accept or refuse further commissions…”