The term SP Bookmaker means Starting Price Bookmaker which generally refers to receiving bets at fixed odds or starting price.
This type of gambling was legal in Australia only for licensed bookmakers working on course meaning at the racetrack. In the 1930’s with the radio and telephone in full swing the races could be heard without going to the track. Lots of people liked to have a punt on the horse racing but often could not go to the track to put on the bets.
The Melbourne Cup was well known by the Australian punters and everyone wanted to have a small bet.
This being the case it made it very difficult for most people to put a bet on if they could not get to the track.
The Illegal SP Bookmaker, it could be anybody. It could be a small timer operator run by a single person taking minimal wagers from one or two friends including neighbours, family members, workmates etc.
Runners as they were known who would go around the neighbourhood collecting wagers from clients in their own houses, at the local hotel, in back streets and so on. Cockies short for Cockatoos who would be placed in positions of high points and other keen viewing advantages to warn Runners and Bookmakers of approaching law authorities.
Then there was the large scale telephone based SP Bookmaking ring involving people answering phones all day long taking thousands of bets worth thousands and thousands of dollars just in one day.
Of course this was all illegal but the authorities were slow to act and did not realise the magnitude of money being generated by this activity in the racing industry. In fact police often turned a blind eye to this as it seemed harmless and was in fact the SP Bookmaker supplying a service to the public.
Eventually the Government finally caught onto it and realised something lucrative was happening in this part of the racing industry. They also realised that it was not generating any taxes and therefore a Royal Commission was launched in 1959.
In 1961 due to the Royal Commission an Off Course Totalisator Agency Board was introduced.
This now resulted in some of the money that was being wagered on racing bets being returned to the racing industry. Punters could now place bets without fear of the law.
As time went on TAB Agencies were showing up everywhere, Hotels, Clubs, shopping centres and so on.
The racecourse Bookmaker still had short comings. In Australia legalised Bookmakers were unable to operate off course shops similar to other countries around the world. So the majority of bookmakers were only allowed to take bets from people at the track up until the 1990’s.
The death of the SP Bookmaker and the final nail in their coffin is near.
Corporate bookmakers were then able to offer another alternative to the punter thanks to new legislation. The Northern Territory Government could now issue Licences offering phone and online gambling to the Bookmakers. Online Bookmakers are now legal and bets can be placed with them from customers in Australia and overseas on all Australian racing and sporting events by almost any means.
With all this new legislation and control by the Governments of Australia the SP Bookmaker slowly died out. They are no more.
To place a bet now, you can use your mobile phone to ring your local legal Bookmaker at the track or at his office, have a credit account with them if you wish. You can place a bet on via the internet with one of many online bookmakers, go to the local pub and use the TAB, place a bet using your TV remote control handset while watching the race or even do something different, go to the racecourse and have a bet with an oncourse bookmaker.
Who will be next to die, not the oncourse Bookmaker I hope.