Gamblers have many options in the market to do their bets and one of them is the illegal market. For those who work in this business, they say that one of the rules to survive is to be careful with the clientele because not everyone can afford to pay what they are betting. Milénio Stadium interviewed this week an illegal bookie that accept to speak with us under anonymity.
This bookie had been in the market in the last 40 years and most of his revenue comes from bets in the English Football League. According to him, despite the bets increased in the last years in the Portuguese community, there are other communities that bet much more. Illegal bookies are making less money since the beginning of pandemic, but they think the market won’t disappear because some people will always prefer to deal with cash, instead of credit cards.
A total of 0.6% of the Canadian adult population was estimated to be problem gamblers in 2018 (roughly 156,000 people) with an additional 2.7% being at-risk gamblers. According to the Canadian Gaming Association, $14 billion annually is spent by Canadians on offshore betting websites and $14 billion annually is spent by Canadians on offshore betting websites and illegal gambling operations.
Milénio Stadium: How did you get involved in book-making and betting world?
Bookie: Believe it or not, when I was about 4/5 years old somebody in my family used to take me to the local pool hall and I guess he used to kind of babysit me and I was always around gambling and places that had gambling whether it was a pool hall or coffee shops. I was always around gambling and people that gambled, and I thought it was normal until later on in life when I knew exactly what I was doing. I started taking bets in high school with local sports, very small amounts, just for fun and now it’s been over 40 years.
MS: What is the average amount of action that you take, how much money passes through you?
B: On a good year it can go as high as a couple million dollars, between $2 and $3 million. That’s just me alone, I mean there’s different ways in working with people but just myself alone. But about $2-3 million dollars comes through my hands.
MS: What are the other ways?
B: Well, sometimes when bets are really big, you’re taking in a partner. If it’s a $500.000 bet or $300.000 bet, you have to back the bet in case you lose. So on my own betting, it’s about to $2 to $3 million that comes through my hands.
MS: How was/is the market during the pandemic?
B: Business has been very good, last year I would say over a million dollars. With the pandemic, online betting became very big but in my business people still like to see cash. In my business it’s all cash, when it’s online it’s all done through credit cards. But people still like to handle cash. The setup goes as follows, I have runners, some people that work for me that take the bets, collect the money and bring it back. I employ multiple people, full time. I’ll give you an example: when things are open, in a coffee shop or whatever, when it’s football season, on a Friday night, you take bets right up until Saturday, people would call the bet, depending on who it is or most of the time, you meet someone and take the money. But what happens with the people who are placing the bets, they get to know the runners, they get to know me, so there’s a comfort level.
MS: How did you get your clients and do you still recruit new clients daily?
B: I don’t recruit anybody, the clients come to me from referrals. If you are betting and you like it, you probably will mention it to someone and because you mention me, I probably would take their bets. I don’t recruit anybody, but I have a pretty substantial clientele right now. If you pay in cash, then you will be paid out in cash. There are times a client signs a promissory note, that is a note to say that the client is good for the money. Most people pay, if they don’t I’m going to have to have somebody to pay them a visit to collect. That’s how book making is. But it’s pretty rare to pay someone a visit, I only have had a few problems throughout all these years. I know there is a lot of people that take bets. Every community takes bets. Chinese community is very big in betting, if you go to Chinatown every restaurant takes bets on whatever. Bookmaking is a very big business. In the Portuguese community, in the last 5-6 years there’s been a lot more betting, especially sports betting when it’s soccer or even football, it’s gotten bigger and bigger in the community. Italian community also does a lot of bookmaking, but everybody bets and all demographics of people.
MS: What sporting events do your clients mainly bet on?
B: I have clients in big corporations, they call me every week and put bets for football, which is my biggest sport right now. My biggest betting time is during the NFL (National Football League), it’s my biggest sports bet. Hockey is good, soccer’s bet, UFC and boxing, my biggest money maker is NFL football. I would say about 70% of my clientele bet on football. When I started 40 years ago my clients were young people but right now, I have all kinds of people, Corporate, people that work on Bay street, office workers, factory workers, a diverse clientele, I even have a couple of doctors, you’d be surprised on who bets. It starts as a passed time but then it becomes a little bit aggressive for so many people.
MS: Do you like what you are doing? Do you have any fears?
B: I love what I do, and I don’t have any fears, only because I run a business, I run it well, I produce, and I deliver. But it’s not as easy as it looks, because if you take a bet and you lose you got to pay it out, even if the odds sometimes are in my favour. It’s not easy and it’s getting tougher and tougher with so much online gambling.
MS: Is this your only job?
B: It didn’t start as a full-time job, but now is my only job. I took this decision because first of all it is too much money, it takes time to research, odds, games, people, it’s a full-time business, following up with clients, dispersing, it’s 24/7, anytime, but I love it.
MS: How do you deal with a person that would be deemed an addict?
B: I would say 10% to 15% are addicted. You have to know your clientele and I’ve turned down taking bets on margin which means they promised to pay you and I know they won’t pay. If I know people are like that, I won’t take their bets, but I have friends that will take all bets. I’m careful on that part, if someone calls me and I know they are making $60,000 a year in a job and they want to bet $50,000 I know that’s not for them. You have to know your clientele, that’s why I’ve been in the business for 40 years.