But Walker still betting on Russia

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The Independent Online
GEORGE WALKER lost one fortune in the last recession and was in the process of building another one, in Russia, before the rouble crisis hit. Speaking on his mobile phone from Moscow yesterday the former boxer was philosophical about the impact of the Russian currency crisis on his new business, beaming British and Irish racing TV to Russian betting shops.

"Everything is very normal here. I've just left 20 punters in one of the shops happily betting on the Folkestone racing," he said. He does admit however that the suspension of currency trading in Russia means there is no way he can get his profits out of the country. "There is no hard currency leaving the country at all at the moment," he said.

Mr Walker sells the TV signal for British and Irish horseracing and dog racing to a fast expanding chain of betting shops, owned by Russian business partners. Over 40 have opened in Moscow so far, although the rate of expansion might be slowing, he admitted, not least because "one of the Russian guys running one of the shops was running around trying to change his roubles into dollars", Mr Walker said.

Mr Walker was worth pounds 50m on paper at one point, before the last recession sent him into bankruptcy. He concluded on an upbeat note: "Its an established fact that Russians like to bet on English racing. Its better than anything they've got here".