Saturday, June 2, 2012
It's a little galling to see the Queen starting her Jubilee weekend at Epsom, when many of her poorer subjects are under the illusion, or suffering the delusion, that gambling will support a better way of life.
Epsom Derby is a great annual sporting fixture for many and we've enjoyed a few great days out there. But the royal family's love for and association with horses and horse racing means that the Jubilee celebrations are highlighting to the world a fairly limited range of British culture with the choice of activities being racing, boats and music.
Whilst the river pageant offers a connection with the country's history and working life, and the music encapsulates a wide-ish range of styles and tastes, horse racing is mainly about gambling. One might wonder how the Queen splits her bets with £35m to spend. The BBC can't help itself in its excitement at being at Epsom with the Queen there. Paddy Power, Ladbrokes et all must be laughing all the way to the bank, they couldn't ask for a better branding scenario.
All the work done by the Leveson Inquiry that has discredited Jeremy Hunt who heads the Department of Culture Media and Sport is undone. The Select Committee have been reviewing the 2006 Gambling Act (a New Labour disaster which has hitherto allowed the betting industry to conduct business as they please), but a more public inquiry such as Leveson's could lead to proof of irregularities where lobbying by the Betting Industry has achieved extraordinary power over Her Majesty's government (and possibly even over the organisation of this weekend). Whilst the Select Committee is examining the vast loopholes in the Act, the industry has been lobbying to increase the number of Fixed Odd Betting Terminals in betting shops from four to eight. With Hunt in charge at the top, they will probably get their way.
Oh the queen loves horses and betting on horses. But Her Majesty's government watered down, if not did away with the Racing Levy (a tax that supports the racing community) and sold The Tote to Betfred. It has been a struggle for the racing community to get the betting industry to continue to support racing, since it sees its future fortunes in football, gaming machines and online poker. Meanwhile it has vastly increased its property portfolio across the country, investing in cheap property to open as many branches as it can in our poorest high streets, where the main income is from the FOTB machines and not racing.
With the Jubilee coverage of the Epsom Derby, a myth that betting on horses is a popular pastime for the British is perpetuated, which conceals the true nature of the part gambling is now playing in Britain during a time of deep recession. A triumph for the some of the most insidious corporate tax-avoiding companies presently operating in this country.
Image: Maria Clemen