Book Review: On Sports Betting And How To Make It Pay By Derek McGovern

On Sports Betting And How To Make It Pay By Derek McGovern Rowton Press pounds 18.00, Hardback
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The Independent Online
THIS ATTEMPT at parting gullible gamblers from another pounds 18 of their money essentially consists of 300 pages of rehashed press cuttings mixed together with some laddish and unfunny throwaway gags.

As a former editor of the sports betting section of the Racing Post, his anecdotal insights might appeal to some, but to suggest in the title that this book will somehow lead to profit is pure nonsense. No one with genuinely advantageous information has any need to hawk it around.

What the book does offer is a basic history of sports betting (with plenty of bragging references to McGovern's own role in its popularity) and a sport-by-sport guide to betting, with simplistic tips to limiting your losses, such as not backing teams and players in terrible form. Incisive stuff indeed.

There are two sections that actually highlight how you can make gambling pay. The first - cheating the bookies by using such methods as placing bets after you know the results - could end up with fraud charges and is hardly sensible.

The second is getting someone under 18 to place your bet for you. If the bet wins, you collect. If it loses, the bookies should have to refund the stake. Again, it is a method that could end in legal problems.

McGovern's spivvish tone is what really grates, however.

"Not having at least a ton on Hanley [to be named man of the match in the 1989 rugby league Challenge Cup final] is my second biggest regret in life," McGovern writes at one point. He had been told prior to the match that the vote had been arranged already.

"My first [regret] is not trying harder to nail a German beauty queen who almost succumbed to my charms in Ibiza in the early Eighties," McGovern adds. "What a corker." Such irrelevant and unenlightening asides are common.

The key to any sensible bet (if there is such a thing) is value. McGovern offers little in a book that is hopelessly dated already. When railing against bookmakers for deducting too much money from bets and for being stingy with odds, McGovern calls for a national day of boycott - on 13 July this year. It came and went without being noticed - as should this unremarkable tome.