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Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 1999-04 > 0924086913

From: Edward Andrews <>
Subject: Re: Commission Agent
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 11:48:33 +0100

Your Name wrote:
> I am absolutely floored about the thought of my very proper Victorian
> great-grandfather being a bookmaker! Wonderful! Amazing! He did become an
> importer of "Wine and Spirits." Do you think that might be how he started? Was
> it common?
> He was quite wealthy when he emigrated to San Diego in 1889. But we have
> always been mystified about him. I have felt he had some secret. Could that be
> it?
> How would a member of the gentry feel about his daughter marrying a
> "commission agent?" Wow.
> Thank you for your answer.
> Sherry Donaldson
> San Juan Capistrano

It was because my first reaction was of surprise that I temporized
slightly in including what is a dealer in my definition of Commission

In the Belfast of my youth - which was the only part of the UK where
there was off course cash betting, most of the bookies advertised
themselves as commission agents. Their sign would read "Commission Agent
SP in China" which meant that they claimed that they would give you a
starting price for any race in the world.

You don't say actually where the man was operating. I have no idea of
how off course betting worked before the days of the Electric Telegraph,
or what kind of legal regime that they worked in.

On course betting is where you had the bookmaker's proper. I.e. the
people who actually make the book, or calculate the odds. The commission
agent took your commission to place a bet for you. He was operating on
the price which was fixed else where, and it must have been important
for them to have been able to lay off, especially in Ireland where it
would be quite likely to have a local favourite.

I remember when the County Down bred Red Alligator won the National at
66/1 about 1966, there was rejoicing among the Bookies - except in
County Down. Red Alligator was a local horse and the local odds would
have been nearer 1/66. I have no doubt that the Co Down bookies laid the
whole lot off.

While we vaguely quite odds that an event is going to happen the
Bookmakers balance their book. In other words calculate the amount of
money placed on an event.

In the mid 19th Century presumably a lad with a god mathematical brain
could get involved with the business and then subsequently diversify his
business interests.

A poor and hard up member of the gentry would be delighted if his
daughter caught a rich bookmaker for a husband. It would be the middle
class (and a fairly narrow band at that) who would be offended.
I hope that this helps
Edward Andrews
St Nicholas Buccleuch Parish Church Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
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