Former rails bookmaker Michael Wallis responds to Jamie Reid’s defence of ‘Doped’, published in the September/October 2014 edition of BOS Magazine:
Jamie says he is sorry that I didn’t enjoy ‘Doped’ whereas I have never said that I didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, I found it mostly ‘a good read’. He also accuses me of not having understood parts of the book whereas I have understood every word of it. I was simply disappointed to read the many inaccuracies in a book which purports to be an accurate record of those events and, to be frank, I was also annoyed by his depiction of the bookmakers of the time, of which I was one.
Let me reply to his further accusation of ‘nitpicking’:
- Jamie says that Bill Roper was telling the truth when he said that he laid bets to Lord and Lady Rosebery. Not so; the Roseberys would never have betted directly with a bookmaker’s runner. It is ridiculous for Jamie to attempt to make an analogy with the case of Lord Astor: the Roseberys had not been accused of any impropriety; rather they were simply stating a fact.
- Jamie repeatedly refers to Bill Roper ‘standing on his pitch’ or as having been a racecourse bookmaker in his own right, which is completely untrue: he was simply a bookmaker’s runner. I therefore refute the allegation of nitpicking.
- Jamie says that Bill Roper was a member of the Victoria Club, a club exclusively for high-stakes bookmakers like William Hill and Joe Coral. Does he really think I am nitpicking when I say that Bill was never a member of that club? (My father Laurie Wallis was a member!)
- Jamie says that “he does know the difference between permits and licenses” (sic!). He should therefore know that the main criteria for the grant of a Betting Office Licence were ones of planning and demand, whereas a Bookmakers Permit should only be granted to ‘fit and proper persons’. To that extent Jamie’s book misleads its readers. Nitpicking maybe, but he should get his facts right.
- Jamie goes on to say that he never suggested that all the bookmakers of that era were corrupt. He says that as exceptions, together with Archie Scott and William Hill, he could also have mentioned Victor Chandler (snr) and Laurie Wallis. I am not so easily seduced by his flattery, and in any case the fact is that he didn’t mention them. Neither did he mention Joe Coral, Beresford & Smith, Hunter Simmonds, Jack Burns, Ronnie Upex, Beau Goldsmith, George Habbershaw, Jo Schofield, Alfie Turner, Henry George (Iveson), Walter Wray, and others whose names escape me. On the contrary, we are all tarred with the same brush, i.e.-
“Not that any of them (the bookmakers) were about to turn Bill (Roper) in. Not even when a reward was offered. It just wasn’t part of their culture.” (Page 148.)
“With the exception of William Hill, Bill’s fellow layers weren’t talking.” (Page 157.)
“…… but those bookmakers and their patrons, north and south, who had been in on the scam and laid the ‘jolly’ were jubilant.” (Pp 170/171.)
“The BPA …… responded by offering a £5,000 reward for any information that led to a conviction. There were no takers.” (Page 185.)
“The gang made their money by telling bookmakers which horses had been doped.”
“The real villains of the conspiracy, the bookmakers, are still not in the dock …… and it is they who have reaped a rich harvest.” (Page 250.)
“…… there are people or persons who must be bookmakers who are behind all of this.” (Page 250.)
Jamie praises Clive Graham as an ‘extremely reputable journalist and an ardent punter’.
I disagree. Clive was also an ardent tote monopolist who wrote at the time of the doping scandal “…… “it must be the death knell for bookmakers in this country.” (Page 258.) Hypocritical and bigoted are words that spring to mind.
Jamie should have the guts to admit that his book contains many unacceptable inaccuracies rather than a feeble attempt to denigrate anyone such as myself who dares to criticise him. He should also publicly apologise for his unwarranted slur against the bookmakers of the time. He is cowardly to the extent that he accuses Cyril Stein of villainy when he is no longer able to defend himself. Were he still alive I have no doubt that he would be suing Jamie and his publishers for defamation.