Private Investor: How to score a victory at the bookies

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The Independent Online

There's already been a mountain of money bet on the World Cup - but what if England go all the way? Hills' betting shops seem to have unlimited ingenuity in inventing new and ever more sophisticated methods of parting punters from their cash. What if there's an England- Germany final? Quite a spree in store.

As I ponder a £10 bet on Argentina to win the World Cup (gambling being one of the few vices that I've been able to resist) I think all enthusiastic sportsmen and women should try to see at least some of their money back by buying into the bookies.

Sadly William Hill is also quite a good bet for any downturn, as people seem disinclined to cut down on their little flutters just because mortgages are going up. As we've seen over the past few years the British are quite inveterate gamblers given the chance, and, with the National Lottery and the liberalisation of the law on casinos, governments of both parties seem all too willing to give gamblers their head. The Government wins through the various levies on betting, the companies win via the profits they make from punters, and the only people who lose are the poor old gamblers who lose control of what they're doing. I'd feel a lot more happy about William Hill as an investment if that firm and its peers spent a little more time informally and formally analysing who's getting into difficulties with problem gambling and debt.

Elsewhere it's been mixed news for the portfolio. The recent heavy falls in emerging markets knocked my shares badly, but they've been making a recovery of sorts lately, so I shall contentedly carry on drip feeding a little money into the JPMF Emerging markets Trust, the Witan Pacific and the JPMF Indian Investment trusts. They are volatile and not for the risk averse, let us be sure. Indeed you should be pretty much willing to see all your money go down the drain in extreme circumstances. However, if you can take the roller-coaster ride they're the best bet for the long term. If you make your living in a mature Western economy such as the UK but see more and more jobs being exported abroad, you ought to think about hedging your own livelihood by investing in the countries that are going to benefit from this particular form of globalisation.

Luckily, markets such as India, while problematic, are gradually opening up and there are a (very) few vehicles available for you to gain a slice of the action. You should, however, be prepared for some disappointments along the way. If you're under 40, or better, under 30, putting a few pounds a month into such a high risk fund - if you're doing it with your eyes open - might be an excellent way to secure your retirement when the only jobs left in Britain are low-paid satellites of Indian and Chinese firms and Britain becomes an economic colony of the Indian Empire. Well, you never know, we did it to them remember.

A last few words on British Airways and how disheartened I was by the investigation into alleged price-fixing activity. Disheartened that is because the shares were only marked down by a couple of per cent, and there was no selling panic that would have allowed me to sneak in and buy a few at a temporarily low value.

BA's recovery, mirrored in its share price since the dark days after September 11, is quite an unsung success story. Price fixing or not, it's been an impressive performance.

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

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