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  Friday, 30 March, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
The buzz of the bookies
Betting shops will be packed on 7 April
Betting shops will be packed on 7 April
BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson, a former betting shop employee, remembers Grand National days at the bookies.

Working in a betting shop is busy at the best of times but Grand National day takes some beating.

There is a fantastic atmosphere as once a year punters try to get a grip with the elements of betting.

It seems almost everyone takes the plunge and puts a wager on the world's most famous horse race.

From an earlier start than normal, bookies' cashiers take millions of bets over shop counters around the country.

Cashiers try to be helpful, when clueless customers ask them what to do.

  Betting shop do's
Do get there early on Grand National Day
Do be prepared to queue anyway
Do have an idea of the horses you want to back
Do be prepared to pay the tax - 9p in the
Do kiss your ticket for good luck - well, you don't have to

You'd be amazed at the amount of people who think they can hand a scribbled note on the back of a cigarette packet or napkin and expect it to be a bona fide bet!

Those days are long gone as bookies have cleaned up their corporate image to offer clean and comfortable offices which even offer drinks and snacks.

The buzz is amazing during the build-up to the race and although it is manic and tiring everyone has a fun day.

It's funny how everyone is rushing around before the race starts but as soon as they're off, the shop falls silent - for a few moments at least.

As the fences and the minutes tick by the looks on the punters' faces are a picture.

There are those whose horses have already fallen and their betting slips lie scrunched up on the floor.

While there are others jumping up and down, willing their horse to victory.

  Betting shop don'ts
Don't expect the air to be clean - smoking and swearing is tolerated
Don't ask anyone for tips - they're bound to be wrong
But don't be afraid to ask for advice on betting from the cashiers
Don't expect to win - just hope you do
Don't spend all your money!

After the cheers and screams have died down it's back to work for the bookies as they have thousands of bets to settle.

There is always an in-shop bet to see what time the first punter will be in to claim his prize money.

Normally it is just minutes after the race has ended and he doesn't understand why cashiers haven't got his money at the ready.

Being just a small part of such a great occasion is really special.

Just how great it is was highlighted when the 1993 race was void.

The disappointment on the faces of bookies and punters alike is something I wouldn't like to see again.

And as the 1997 re-scheduled National proved, the public wants the race to go on whatever extreme measures have to be taken.


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30 Mar 01 | Grand National
30 Mar 01 | Grand National
Links to more Grand National stories are at the foot of the page.


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