Talking Betting With......Nick Corbett
How do you get into the betting industry? Today on the blog Stephen talks with Nick Corbett of Corbett Sports about how he got started in the world of betting and where the industry is heading in the future.
In the latest of our Talking Betting series we chat to one of the major independent bookies in the North, Nick Corbett of Corbett Sports. He has on-course pitches at most of the major tracks in the North and a chain of betting shops.
How did you first get into the world of betting and gambling?
I really had no choice, you might say I was born into it! My dad, his dad,we go back a few generations.
What jobs have you done in the industry?
Believe it or not I have done nearly every job the industry has to offer. I started out at nine years old helping my dad after school and on Saturdays, filing slips,working out liabilities etc. At 12 I was sent to work in a betting shop for the first time, it wasn’t illegal because it was on a holiday camp, where the normal legislation on age etc didn’t apply. We opened for night racing many years before the rest of industry, the holiday makers couldn’t believe it!! The atmosphere was electric, everyone staring at the blower, like it was a TV screen. So, I was a board marker, cashier, bet settler before I was 13.
I learnt to settle bets the old way to start with, my dad bought me a book from the sporting chronicle classifieds written by Warwick Bartlett. Funny thing is many years later Warwick and I became very good friends in our BBOA days. I still remind him about that book!
By the time I left school I was running shops in the north Wales area, about 1/3 of the estate at that time, and still managing the busiest shop myself, in those days shops were really busy!
I really enjoyed doing the on course work also. I used to go to Chester dogs with my granddad, and later worked the trotting at Tir Prince with my cousin, Jon who now works as a trader for SJ in Gibraltar. A few years later I was given the course pitches to run, after an acrimonious and well documented family split. My dad said something like this! Here’s these pitches go and run them and make a good profit. Errr ok dad..
So now my time is split between on course and off course, I started out as a bet filer and ended up as a director.
What is the biggest win you have ever had as a bookmaker?
The biggest win I have had on course was 46k one day at Cheltenham, which I thought was excellent because the most I stood one for that day was around 4.5k. I phoned my dad that night, who was seriously ill in hospital, told him how much we had won! He said ”Have you seen the results? Not enough son!”. We won 142k that festival week.
The most I have lost in one day is 50,300. I remember the figure well, it was glorious Goodwood. I laid one of Mark Johnston’s, 35000/10000 Road to Love and it obliged, laid some huge bets that day, saving grace was we only lost 18k on the week! I no longer lay bets of that size on course anymore, quite simply, the money isn’t there! And there is no value in doing so.
The last big bet I laid was at Ludlow a few years ago. An owner asked me if he could back his horse, I said of course sir. It was 12/1. By the time he got his ticket it had collapsed, eventually in to 9/2 jf.
It's in my book for 23k on a cold Thursday afternoon with empty stands! Well it was beaten and out of the frame, and guess what, I still lost!! How can you explain that ! So that was that, I now try to make similar books for every race..TRY.
How do you deal with losing runs for the firm?
Sit tight, rely on the margins eventually coming through. That’s the off course business I’m talking about. On the race course, you just have to keep going and be consistent in what you do, eventually it will sort itself out! I suppose the answer is being consistent!
What advice would you give to any aspiring punters trying to do it professionally?
This is a bit of a two edged sword: On one hand the most successful punters I know are the ones that pick and choose their wagers, maybe three or four bets per week, yet these are the punters I want to bet all the time, to give me a chance of getting it back.
Just be selective and overly patient. Remember this, we want your money!
How has the bookmaking game changed in recent years?
On and off course has changed in similar ways. Computerisation, if someone had told me years ago, that computers would be settling bets in the shops, I would have laughed at them. One day my late father and my sister went to a trade show, came back and said they had seen the future. My dad was exited telling me all about it! I was so negative, “It wont work”, “It cant work”. Just didn’t sound right. My dad, who was always against modernisation, almost immediately invested 1.75 million into the roll out. We were told it would put 1.5% on the bottom line, I said “It’s just sales talk”.
So our first shop was Bangor in north Wales. We brought John Francome over for the opening. Well everything went smooth, and yes it did put bump up that bottom line margin. We rolled out into fifty plus shops and reaped the benefits of early installation, while the rest of the industry stood by and watched. Now they all have it! We probably would have stood back and waited if it wasn’t for my dad and his foresight!
What are the hardest things about being the man in charge?
I’m not the only one in charge. There's my two brothers and my sister, we all have a roll to play. I run the race course, and when I’m not racing, I’m in the office, helping run the shops. My oldest brother runs the shops and overseas the day to day running of the firm including, the online business!
My other brother runs the shop fitting and maintenance, and also helps out on the race-course on weekends. My sister runs the HR department.
What mentality do you need to survive at the top of a firm?
We all work well together, and support each other. I would struggle with out this support.
Do you use "inside" information for betting/trading or purely your judgement?
NO!. I used to get very good information, which I would use on the course. It usually consisted of something like this, would always be a first or second fav that hadn’t travelled well in the box, been knocked or something similar. I was offered this for a few months before I stopped listening.
As far as the off course is concerned, we don’t listen to anything. You could get positive info on eight different horses in an eight runner race. What is info these days? Is it a winner or is it an arb? Its all about getting an edge. People moan about bookies trying bet to good figures, yet the first thing they would do is “trade out” if they could! Kettles and black spring to mind.
How do you see the game developing in the next ten years?
One word: proliferation! There is more people gambling now than there ever has been. We just need to make sure we are well prepared and well placed for it!. On course, on line and in the shops!
Legislation plays a huge part in this. A level playing field is needed. If you are a layer, you should be treated and taxed the same as all layers. Like wise if you are a backer.