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Long live gambling oldies

Blog | By Graham Sharpe | Jul 06, 2020

The Gamblers (Minneapolis Institute of Arts)

  • JOHN W RICHARDSON, a Londoner who moved to California, is in his 80th year. He is perhaps keener than most to make it to his centenary in 2040 - as he may well be in a position to cash in perhaps the most unusual betting slip ever handed over by a bookie - well, by me!
    A quarter of a century ago, in 1995, when he was a mere stripling of 55, John contacted me at William Hill, where I was working, to enquire whether I ever took wagers from customers betting they'd remain alive up to and beyond their 100th birthday.
    I told him that indeed I did, but that thus far I hadn't been called upon to pay out as a result - although that would change big-time on April 24, 2007, when Alec Holden from Epsom collected £25,000 from the £100 bet he'd staked at the odds of 250/1 I'd laid him when he was a seventies-something youngster.
    Should John W make it, I may well have the pleasure of congratulating him to the tune of £500,000 winnings from the 10,000/1 odds wager he placed..........although there is a small sting in the tail of this particular gamble, about which more, a little later.
    Jon Matthews, a regular punter in the Hill's betting shop in Fenny Stratford near Milton Keynes, had given himself a lesser advanced age target to aim at when he approached me in early 2007. He was 58 years old at the time, and wanted to bet that he'd still be alive on June 1, 2008; June 1, 2009 and June 1, 2010.
    My initial thought was, of course; 'Why should he not achieve these modest-looking targets?
    Jon then explained that he'd recently been diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, and warned that he was extremely unlikely to survive until the end of the year.
    As a keen punter, he told me he reckoned a bet that he could overcome this doom-laden scenario might help him summon up the necessary resistance at least to maintain a positive frame of mind.
    Not everyone at the company agreed with my decision to go along with Jon's wishes and to lay him the bets, but I believed him when he told me that it would boost his morale.
    So he staked £100 at odds of 50/1 that he would survive until June 1, 2008, which would potentially win him £5000.
    He staked a further £100 at 50/1 that he would also make it to June 1, 2009 to collect a further £5000.
    And another £100, this time at longer odds of 100/1 that he'd still be alive on June 1, 2010, when he'd trouser an additional £10,000.
    Come June 1, 2008, Jon was still alive. I presented him with a cheque for £5000. The media arrived in force to see him collect the money at his local betting shop.
    We all returned there again on June 1, 2009, when I gave him five grand more, and asked was he sure he hadn't been misdiagnosed and was only suffering from a bad bout of flu?
    In sight of the third win, worth £10,000, Jon sadly passed away just a couple of weeks from achieving a remarkable hat trick of wins.
    In memory of this brave, good-humoured man, I arranged for the £10,000 he would have won, to be donated to Harefield Hospital, where he had been treated, to fund an important new item of medical equipment - to which was attached a plaque commemorating his life and love of a bet.
    But to return to John W Richardson. As I hinted, there is a small caveat to be overcome by him before that cheque for half a million is handed over on his 100th birthday - probably by the 90 year old me.
    As well as having kept breathing to celebrate his 100th, John then has to father a child 'by the conventional method' to collect the full payout.
    Not that John is by any means deterred by the task facing him - 'I'll offer half of my winnings to any woman who will bear a child for me when I'm one hundred' he told me confidently. 'That should do the trick........'