Racing: Meeting avoids wagers of sin

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If attendance figures and enthusiasm rose to the highest conceivable points at Doncaster, the restrictions on betting were also successfully circumvented without the need for mass arrests.

'I've spoken to the betting intelligence officers and there was absolutely no sign of illegal gambling,' said Nigel Clark, head of the Jockey Club's Campaign for Sunday Racing.

The absence of bookmakers, clerks and arm-wavers in the ring had already meant that there would be room on the trains to Doncaster from King's Cross. At the track, it replaced the heat of bookie-punter confrontation with the atmosphere of a country fair.

Most racegoers appeared to accept that unless they had placed bets on the Saturday, phoning stakes through to credit offices would be impossibly complicated.

Against that, the leading firms reported that trade on Doncaster's card - a day in advance - had compared favourably with a comparable Saturday programme.

'We were surprised yesterday because punters usually concentrate on the racing in hand,' Don Payne, of William Hill, said. 'For instance, they normally wait until after the Cambridgeshire (Saturday) before having a bet on the Arc (a day later, at Longchamp). We were attracting enough business yesterday for us to have to change our prices several times through the afternoon.'

Each firm chose its own method of returning starting prices but there were no reports of aggrieved punters claiming to have been short-changed. At the track, a number of individual bookmakers offered help in policing the ring. Ladbrokes, who took virtually no interest in the day, sent their own monitoring official.

Roger Buffam, head of Jockey Club security, said: 'There are one or two well-known bookmakers here, but only to see how things are going and enjoy a day in the sun.' Asked what his staff would do if they saw two friends having a private pounds 10 bet, Buffam said: 'We'd probably just tap them on the shoulder.'