Changed English Betting Ways: Personal Wagering Less in Vogue than of Old, but Love of Sport is Rampant, Daily Racing Form, 1907-08-21


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CHANGED ENGLISH BETTING WAYS. Personal Wagering Less in Vogue Than of Old, but Love of Sport Is Rampant. It is the nature of man to accept the metamorphosis of life with amusement, curiosity, and mistrust. Our national supremacy at all-aroud sport, for instance, is an engrossing topic of conversation just now. In this connection, some people exclaim "Ichabod"; others rightly pooh-pooh any such idea; and some are mistrustful, yet hope for the best. We are a sport-loving nation, you see, and cannot help feeling keen curiosity as to our place of standing in international fray. So far, so good; such keenness is laudable enough. Rut current pessimists labor their case unduly, forgetting two important points. Herodotus tells us there is a wheel of human affairs which, continually revolving, does not suffer the same persons to be always sucessful. Put another way, this means that national sporting vicissitudes are like the throw of the dice box one year you have a plethora of talent, the next an absolute dearth of it. Who can gainsay nfter recent events? Disillusion is indeed, a schoolmaster who pushes his pupils. In my opinion, this question of national sporting degeneracy lias been discussed with absurd gravity by many who ought to have known better but this by the way. Another question which has roused general curiosity is the decline of the wager. The very phrase, of course, implies a totally different moral status from ordinary betting or. gambling. It has always been, so speak, a tiling apart; and yet well, it is unmistakably on the decline. Anti-sportsmen attribute It to one Influence and sportsmen themselves to quitanother. Which is right? That the wager was once part and parcel of English sport is a fact beyond all possible cavil or dispute. People wagered aliout anything, and nobody thought much the worse of them. How could they? For, in the definition of Mr. F. G. Affalo, the wager Implies "a straightforward undertaking on the part of the challenger to perform a certain task of danger or difficulty." It may be a long walk, a ride over obstacles, severe bodily exertion, etc.; anyway, it certainly implies the spectacle of a man willing to risk bis money on his own supremacy in horsemanship, shooting or what not. This personal flavor even constrained goody-goody people of old to draw a distinction between the wager and so-called betting or gambling evils. They winked at wagering, that is, wiiilo decrying turf and card-tablo procedure. And much old-time wagering was connected with what twentieth century moralists would call frivolous matters. Horsemanship, of course, brought about a very groat deal. In 1S31, Squire Osbaldeston hacked himself to ride 200 miles, with an unlimited number of horses in ten hours. Using no fewer than twenty-eight horses lie accomplished the feat in eight hours forty-two minutes, and landed a stake of 1,SC0. Captain Home, of the Madras Horse Artillery, is said to have accomplished a similar fea.t between Madras and Bunga-lore three years later for even a bigger wager. In 1751 Mr. Woodcock wagered 2,000 guineas that be would ride 2,000 miles in twenty-nine consecutive days, utilizing fifteen horses. He completed the distance between May 4 and June 1. Another memorable feat was that of Mr. Racon, Rombay Civil Service, who rode one camel SOO miles In eight days. The Osbaldeston vs. Ross pigeon shooting match for 1,000 a side and lhat between the first- named sportsman and Mr. Farquliarson for 500 a side, were wagers which caused a lot of money to cbauge bands. Captain Ross once won 100, from Mr. George Folijambc by shooting ten brace of swallows with a pistol and single ball in one day. The birds were brought into the room while dinner was going on, which caused Lord Kennedy to remark: "This Is the most expensive entree ever handed to me." Pedestrian wagers were of almost dally occurrence. Darby Stevens won 30 by walking backwards 500 miles in twenty days, guided only by a line laid along the ground, which lie was allowed to hold at intervals. Another athlete, one John Slone, wheeled a friend in a wheelbarrow a distance of three. miles in half an hour "for a trifling wager." In 1S30 a ran-dau match on the Thames between Messrs. Mitchell nad Ilollon and C. Campbell and Emery created quite a mild sensation. It was for C00 a side, and Campbells crew won easily. Even amateur oarsmen were, paradoxically, fond of rowing for wagers, too. What would be said nowadays If the Leander Clubs eight challenged the L. R. C. to row for a wager of 300 a side? Yet this now, as then, famons club once took part in such a race. Another amateur. Sic, assisted by J. Williams, a waterman, rowed a pair-oared boat from Oxford to Westminster Rrldge for a wager of "100 to 10." Wagers for cricket, bowling, boxing, etc., feats might be mentioned ad lib., but space will only admit of very few. A clergyman named Revir once offered to fight any man in England for 1,000 guineas, well knowing that he would lose his gown. Nobody accepted the challenge. It is stated that a certain gentleman once offered to give Mr. Rudd 1 for every run lie scored in a great match, provided that gentleman would forfeit 20 if he failed to get twenty-five. As the result Mr. Rudds banking account was appreciably increased but enough. Such an epoch may best be, described as one of "heart and impulse." We are now, one fears, in the epocli of "bead and calculation"; anyway, the good old honest English wager really seems as extinct as the dodo. Exactly why it is difficult to understand. It never was unwholesome. Nor can any moralist place it in the same category as "the mere passion for gambling." As the Right Honorable J. Lowther once remarked, "if a man risks a sum he can afford to lose, especially in the form of a personal wager, he is not gambling." Sporting Life readers must not mistake my meaning. The extinction of the wager lias been a gradual one. It has come "lilt by bit" as Mr. Asliton Dllkc says in another connection. And even nowadays there are plenty of wagers made by sportsmen like Lord Lonsdale, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Mr. J. It. Russell and others too numerous to mention. Minor wagers, too, are frequently enough in matters sporting. Hardly a day passes but some challenge or other appears In the pages of the Sporting Life, for instance. Rut, by comparison, wagering can hardly be now dubbed a national Institution as it was years ago. Men like Mr. John Hawke assert its decline is attributable to atrophy of the gambling Instinct, but this is nonsense. Nothing- of the sort. Man is unquestionably a gaming animal, and the very spirit which makes us strive to rise in life is twin brother to the spirit which makes men gamblers. Two men were arguing this very point a day or so ago. Waxing unduly emphatic, one exclaimed: "I assure you less wagering goes on nowadays than was the case twenty years ago." Quick as lightning came the response: "Ill bet you 5 there isnt." And this enterprising gentleman was a professed anti-gambler. It only shows how the love of betting is ingrained in human nature. Sportsmen like Mr. Affalo attribute the decline to bard times, agricultural depression, bad trade, etc., and the last-named reason is probably the correct one. The trend of events in 1007 lias certainly induced a more cautious view of ways and means. .Men still bet on horse races, and women incur debts at bridge, and, as I have shown, this is not wagering, in the correct sense of the phrase. The distinction may be subtle, but it remains. Willi rare unction, a current writer to a goody-goody contemporary augurs all sorts of good lliings from this state of affairs. He thinks it a certain sign that the love of betting is equally declining; a consummation, by the way, for which lie and his anti-gambling colleagues, like Mark Twains dog, have "fit and fit for" all these years. What an optimist he must be. We have certainly done much in England to suppress such dens of iniquity as still flourish at Raden-Raden, Hamburg, Ostend, etc. The only open gaming is that which is enacted on race courses and kindred venues. Rut be is hugely mistaken if lie imagines English people will ever give up betting on the speed and endurance of a race horse, in particular. This, to my mind, lias always been the noblest form of gambling in existence. Do such people ever realize the love of excitement inherent jn the average person which finds expression ill betting? It is idle to contemplate for a moment the idea of putting it down "in any class of life" Aiid, if it conies to that, why should we wish to do so? Let them take Mr. Lowthers coinmonsense view of the matter, and draw a clear line between betting and gambling. Our goody-goody friend never refers to the evils of gambling. I may add but let lhat pass. Such people invariably fail to define the dividing line, which may briefly be put like this: If a man risks a sum "lie can afford to lose," he is not gambling; if "he risks more than he can pay," lie certainly is. Put another way, a 100 bet between the Duke of Devonshire and Mr. Astor is not a gambling transaction, whereas a 100 between young fellows "Whose fa titers allow them 300 a year. And theyll lay 1,000 to ten," may be so described. Despite what Sydney Smith calls his "Ten Commandments flavor," this writer evidently knows very little,, presumes a good deal, and so jumps to conclusions on the subject of betting. Why call a flock of sheep wolves because there happens to be one or two of the lupine family masquerading as vegetarians? It is ref resiling to turn from this article to a recent speech of Colonel A. Gilbey at the Oxford Diocesan Conference. lie frankly slates that men will bet, and there Is an end of it; moreover, that any scheme of reform or control, heralded just now by remorseless police spying, must be most carefully devised and brought about. He favors the licensing of bookmakers, and what the Sporting Life lias agitated for years out of number proper legislation for those who .desire lo bet without fear or favor. I agree with the gallant colonel that this would go far towards mitigating any evil which may arise from the practice. Failing that, lie. favors the legislation of the parl-mutuel as it is called in France or totalis.1 tor as it is called in India and the colonies. Again I agree, and only wish other men of repute would tackle the subject in the same broad-minded, honest fashion as Colonel Gilbey. It is only a few faddists who would try to suppress horse-racing In order to do away with betting. That is it. The suppression of sport is their primary object; all this sort of cackle about betting merely by-play, so to speak. What folly. Unless they believe in Satan himself reforming, their Imaginations must be vivid In the extreme. The love of sport has grown with Englands growth for well over a thousand years, and it will continue to flourish long after its present detractors are dead and forgotten. Old Blue in London Sporting Life,

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