From the Bookies to Creative Support
My first day at Creative Support was Monday 18th June 2012. Before then I had worked for a year in a high street bookmakers. When I tell people this they are generally quite surprised although I’m not really sure why …
When I took the job at the bookies I had just graduated from University. I had studied Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire but no one seemed interested in taking me on as an Assistant Psychologist and I didn’t fancy moving back home to live with my parents. I probably wouldn’t have usually looked at jobs in betting shops but I had recently discovered the wonders of a Saturday football coupon and I thought it would be quite fun as something temporary while I decided what I was going to do with my life.
The job was certainly lively at times and I enjoyed it because there was a lot to learn. I’ve certainly acquired some good knowledge about different types of bets and general rules that I can wheel out if the occasion ever arises. Only the other day I was able to tell someone that, should a free bet win, you won’t get your stake back, so don’t put it on something that is odds on. Yeah!
While I was there I tried to build up my CV by doing work experience that I thought was relevant to Psychology, but really I think working there should have counted. I encountered people who I considered to have mental health needs or addiction problems on a daily basis.
My most memorable customer was an elderly man from St. Vincent. He was in everyday without fail (except when he went on holiday to London and presumably frequented another shop down there). He could bet anything from 20p to £200 on a dog race, money he clearly couldn’t afford to lose.
Another regular had delusions about how the bandit machines worked. He would insist that they were fixed and you couldn’t reason with him. If he lost he would say “they’ve turned them off” – ‘they’ being people in a control room who could turn the machines to win or lose. I would tell him there wasn’t a control room to which he would reply: “there is love, ‘cos I used to work there!” then make his hands into guns and pretend to shoot the security cameras so they couldn’t see him.
Given that everything about any bookmakers business plan revolves around getting people to spend more money, I really felt like people like this didn’t need to be encouraged to waste more of their money. There are procedures in place so people can get help from organisations such as Gamcare but in my opinion, the people I encountered didn’t want to stop betting, they just wanted to start winning.
Obviously there are people who use the bookies as a leisure activity but for others it’s more like an institution. Towards the end of my time there I really felt like working there was to the detriment of society. I’ve always wanted to do a job that helps people and I certainly wasn’t doing that. I was pleased when my boyfriend got a job which meant we would be staying in the North West. I started applying for jobs that were more relevant to my degree and soon found Creative Support. I’ve been here 3 months now and I’m happy to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile that benefits others.
My Dad said to me the other day that he was glad I’d worked at a bookmakers rather than just walking into an office job because, in his words, ‘that’s the real world’. I know where he’s coming from, I reckon I can definitely put it down as life experience. The best thing I’ve taken away? Probably some advice from a customer: “You wanna get into making fruitcakes – that’s where the money is!”
By Rebecca, Creative Support North West Development Officer