Andy Bennett, former Betting Shop Manager of the Year reveals the capacity and willingness of his industry to support community issues such as loneliness and mental health.
Where it all began
I am very proud to be a betting shop manager, working for Scotbet in the scenic Scottish Borders. I started in the betting industry with William Hill over 13 years ago when bets were still settled manually – one of so many things to have changed over the years! Technology has changed betting shops beyond all recognition, but the one thing that has remained constant is the customers.
Crowned Betting Shop Manager of the year 2011
I’ve always said that it’s the punters that make a shop, and I’m very lucky to have such a good bunch, and indeed such a good team, in what is a hotbed of interest in horse racing. I soon realised that without customers, there is no job and I was lucky enough to win the Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year Award back in 2011. It was quite a time, which included a luxury trip to Dubai. However, it was another spin off this award that I think of as my biggest achievement.
Getting the customers involved
Our local racetrack, Kelso, offered our shop team a VIP day out to celebrate my win and I managed to persuade them to invite the customers, with Scotbet providing the transport. On that trip we raised over £1,000 for the Special Care Baby Unit at our local hospital – a tradition that in March celebrated its 7th annual Race day at Kelso.
We have taken between 60-110 people on each of our trips, from the hard core horsey punters to the Irish Lotto ladies. It’s great to be able to bring such a diverse group of people together, and there isn’t a better feeling than returning home and seeing how much people have enjoyed themselves.
With loneliness and the effects it has on people’s mental health rightly highlighted in the news recently, I love the fact that the job I have, in the heart of the community, allows me to be able to do something to connect people. Horse racing has that ability to bring people together, especially at such an intimate track like Kelso.
Volunteering with Musselburgh Racecourse
Musselburgh is another track which recognises its role in the community. I’ve been privileged to be able to join their staff on volunteering day. Staff at all levels, including Managing Director Bill Farnsworth all mucked in and got their hands dirty to transform Olivebank Nursery’s overgrown garden into a play area complete with water feature and sandpit that anyone would envy! You may not believe it, but stories like this are commonplace in racing, with great work often being overlooked in favour of more dramatic headline stories. The truth is social responsibility has never been more important and customer protection is at the heart of all that we do.
Well done to winners of Scottish Community Betting Shop of the Year Award
I’d love to take this opportunity to congratulate Caroline, Lucy and the rest of the team at Ladbrokes in Dunoon who have recently won the first-ever Association of British Bookmakers Scottish Community Betting Shop of the Year Award, in conjunction with the Scottish Towns Partnership. To have even made the final three has been a wonderful achievement for our shop, but reading about their efforts has shown them to be very worthy winners.
Well done to all the betting shop staff out there who go above and beyond to make their communities better places, and there are many. And a massive thank you to all the people using our shops responsibly and making the job so rewarding.