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Some racecourse bookmakers have been up in arms over Royal Ascot’s decision to limit their crowd to just 4000 this year. They aren’t complaining about that figure, or that they will be made up of members, box holders and people eating in the restaurants. No, some of the layers aren’t happy that bookmaker numbers have been limited to just a dozen to service those punters.

I know that the racecourse bookmakers have suffered badly during lockdown, but it appears that they have had their memories tinged with rose in their absence. 

The racecourse has said that restaurants and private boxes as well as annual members have been prioritised. There will be no tickets on sale to the public. That is unless you and your mates want to hire one of the few private boxes left, at prices ranging from £1099 to £2177 when I last looked. If you are well-heeled enough you’ll be high in the stands where those desperate bookies will look like ants. I am guessing the trapse down to the ring won’t appeal to that many. The racecourse is probably missing a trick though, had they thrown it open to bookmakers I’m also guessing the numbers that would turn up for the fear of missing out would massively outweigh any realistic chance of them taking enough money to cover their exes, let alone winning it.

Talking of looking down from high places. The Racing Post has reported that racecourses are going to look into taking legal action against the people who are piloting drones and flogging pictures to punters on race days. These unmanned flying objects have proliferated in recent years, especially since mid-2020 when racing resumed behind closed doors in the UK. 

Talking to the trade paper, Brighton Racecourse executive director Paul Ellison told them, ‘We’ll look to litigate against the main companies that are doing it.’ ‘They’re operating perfectly legally at the moment, the police went and checked all their licences on our first race day back and there’s nothing we can do about it at all at the moment unless we litigate ,which I think we will do at some point.’ ‘They’re all down at Whitehawk, which is  200-300 foot down, but it means they can get so close to the track. At other racecourses it’s very obvious where they are, but it’s a massive housing estate, it’s a labyrinth. The police found them on the first day but they were all flying perfectly legally so there’s nothing we can do.

The drones are flown for the benefit of professional in-running punters who had previously been welcomed to many racecourses who hire them boxes for the day to ply their trade. That is of course until Covid restrictions hit. I’m told that professional punters are unable to claim government grants or furlough themselves so have had to get imaginative to remain in business. There had been suggestion, albeit from a bloke shivering on his sixth pint outside a pub,  that fighter drones could be deployed. These weaponised versions could be hired to attack and destroy in dog fights the like of which not seen over South East England since the early years of World War 2. He’s probably talking utter cobblers of course but it might be a solution and at the very least something to bet on between races!

Simon Nott

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