Off-course betting, bookmaking and the British
in Horseracing and the British 1919–39

Betting was probably exceeded only by cinema-going as the leading leisure spending activity during the interwar years. A pathological view of betting, and the ethical, moral, social and economic arguments surrounding its consequences, dominated. Recent academic research has also largely focused on working-class, ‘popular’ betting, reflecting contemporary state and press concerns, and interest in the economic difficulties of the interwar years. This chapter portrays British betting culture in detail and shows that there were clear national and regional variations in betting's nature and volume. Attitudes within different social strata, personality and temperament also played a part. The study stresses the important extent to which betting was a social activity, enjoyed communally, and found in both work and leisure contexts, with bets placed in private houses and shops, the pub and Tote clubs. The chapter also shows the extent to which bookmaking was a formal and highly commercial activity.

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