Vinny keeps his fingers crossed as Angie goes to war
A sluggish start to the year sees Angie come up with a Cheltenham plan, writes RODDY L'ESTRANGE
The white and amber posters for Boru Betting’s Cheltenham campaign dotted the three great arteries on the north east of Dublin’s fair city.
That they were in place at all, Vinny Fitzpatrick suspected, was due to gentle arm-twisting by his wife Angie of her brother Gerry, a local sergeant and keen racegoer, who followed Ruby Walsh religiously at the festival.
Strategically tethered close to the bus stops lining the Clontarf, Howth and Malahide Roads – that had been Vinny’s idea – they reminded the portly bus driver of election time. Now, however, the promise was more immediate.
The gospel read: “Don’t miss Boru Betting’s Unbeatable Cheltenham Specials, Tuesday, March 5.”
It was a calculated gamble to draw punters from Dublin 3 and Dublin 5 into the gambling den at the foot of Vernon Avenue, and convince them to part with their Cheltenham stockpile.
Like all gambles, it could back-fire. If it did, the consequences for the ailing betting shop were potentially dire.
Vinny had been taken aback by Angie’s grim update of the business she had been part of for almost 30 years, rising from gawky teenage teller to svelte, sexy, manageress.
Twice, Boru Betting won Shop of the Year, a coveted award chosen by the Irish Bookmakers Association, and Angie had been a poster girl for the industry – she’d once appeared on the front cover of Business and Finance wearing silks, jodphurs and a whip.
That was in the late 1990s, when folk had lots of spare cash in their pockets and betting online was almost unheard of.
As 2013 stretched its arms and embraced spring – the world of betting was an altered animal and turnover in January and February, generally sluggish months for Boru Betting, was down 15 per cent on the previous year and there was increased pressure from Winston’s head office in London to deliver.
“The face of the business is changing by the day, love, and we have to change with it, or we’ll wither,” explained a worried Angie. “More and more of our customers are betting on-line on their laptops, iPads and mobiles. They are also switching to the exchange firms like Betfair and Betdaq and away from high street bookies like us. I need a big push for Cheltenham, and I need you to help. Here’s my plan.”
Where Cheltenham was concerned, Vinny was yer man. With gusto, he’d barked out a request for volunteers from Foley’s and had rounded up the troops in the car park opposite Boru Betting, for a Saturday morning gallop.
Charlie St John Vernon, who was loaded, had generously done up 150 posters for free; Macker’s mates arrived in a fleet of taxis – two for each of the main roads – and the worker bees had clocked in, among them Fran, Brennie, Kojak, Spider, Big Dave and Two-Mile Borris. They were armed with ladders, plastic tags and bundles of enthusiasm.
Posters on tight
“Lads, make sure the posters are on tight. We’ve only got a few days before the anti-gambling lobby start ringing in to Joe Duffy. And this time when he says: ‘I’ve a woman on from Clontarf’, he’ll mean it.”