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Ex-bookie’s days of plunder

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FORMER big-betting bookmaker Laurie Bricknell has been made a member of the Gold Coast Turf Club’s Hall of Fame in recognition of a 28-year career at the course once recognised as the biggest betting ring in Australia.

Bricknell can still be found most Saturdays at the Gold Coast races, trying to find a winner. But these days, the telephone number-sized bets have been replaced by a more conservative approach to the racing game.

Bricknell worked in the Gold Coast ring from 1971 to 1998 before seeing out his career in Brisbane.

He readily recalls the days where the likes of former prime minister Bob Hawke would ring him for mail each Saturday, when it was common to take $100,000 in cash to the course.

He also remembers needing security detail at a time when it wasn’t uncommon for bookies to be “knocked off”.

But it was a lucrative time for satchel swingers and he still cherishes those memories.

“Bookmakers were in control of their own business. Today they are not because they are being handled by the punter, whereas in those days, the bookmaker handled the punter,” he says.

Bricknell retired in 2000 and says he’s only betting “small” these days.

“Under today’s conditions the punt is better than bookmaking. There’s no money on racetracks anymore. The only money that comes is on telephones and it’s often tough money,” he says.

“The corporates have stuffed it and there’s no watchdog on corporates. They can do whatever they want and they are not forced to bet. On a racecourse, you are forced to bet every punter that comes along, whether they’re a professional or amateur.”

Bricknell says he held over $1 million a day on several occasions and was turning over $25 million a year at the height of his bookmaking fame.

Former legendary bookmaker Laurie Bricknell at his second home at the Gold Coast races on Saturday. Picture: Grant Peters

“The punters would be five deep on one side of the rails and four deep on the members, poking money in your face wanting to get on,” he said.

“They recognised us as the strongest ring in Australia. Sydney may have been stronger, but guys like Mark Read would fly up here just to bet with me.”

“Chopper” Read was the centrepiece of one of Australian racing’s biggest ever plunges when his horse Getting Closer won at Canterbury in January 1982 after firming from as much as 200-1 into $8.

“The ex-president of the Gold Coast Turf Club, Peter Gallagher, was the commission agent here on the Gold Coast,” Bricknell recalls.

“His first bet was 33-1. He said ‘I’ve got to have a thousand on this with you mate’ in that drawly voice of his. He said ‘It’s going to be hard to beat you know.’

“It wasn’t the biggest losing race I ever had but it was the biggest plunge I’ve seen.”

Bricknell described it as an honour to be recognised by the club last week and takes particular pride in the role he and fellow bookies played in helping to build the club.

“The club struggled in the first few years of being a Saturday race club and they nearly hit the wall. The bookmakers banded together and half bailed the club out,” he said.

“I look back with good memories that we had something to do with keeping the club alive.”

Originally published as Ex-bookie’s days of plunder

Source: sports dailytelegraph

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