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John Victor Aspinall (1926–2000) by Snowdon, 1973 Snowdon / Vogue / Camera Press, London

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Aspinall, John Victor (1926–2000), gambler and zoo owner, was born on 11 June 1926 at Delhi, India, the second son of Mary Grace (1904–1987), daughter of Clement Samuel Horn, engineer, and wife of Colonel Robert Stivala Aspinall (1895–1954), of the Indian Medical Service (IMS), serving in ...

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Banks, John (1934–2003), bookmaker, was born John Boyle on 19 August 1934 at 62 Dover Street, Anderston, Glasgow, the son of Hugh Boyle, window cleaner, and his wife, Rachel Williamson, née Brown. As a child he took his father's bets to the local (illegal) bookmaker and on leaving ...

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Brady, William (1881–1960), bookmaker, was born in Yorkshire Street, Salford, son of John Brady, commission agent, and his wife, Mary, née Hanoran. Known as Billy, he attended St John's Cathedral Boys' School in Salford and went to work with his two brothers at a local cable manufacturing business. He played rugby league for the factory team and later for ...

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Bull, Phil (1910–1989), racehorse owner and punter, was born on 9 April 1910 at 3 Cemetery Road, Hemsworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, the only son and eldest of the three children of William Osborne Bull (c.1870–1954), a coalminer who later became a sanitary inspector, and his wife, ...

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Charteris, Francis (c. 1665–1732), gambler and rake, was born in or near Edinburgh, probably about 1665 (some ten years earlier than the 1675 date inferred from the Edinburgh obituary printed in many London newspapers shortly after his death), the son of John Charteris (...

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Francis Charteris (c. 1665–1732) by George White ? National Portrait Gallery, London

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Joseph Coral (1904–1996) by unknown photographer, 1969 ? News International Newspapers Ltd

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Coral [formerly Kagarlitsky], Joseph [Joe] (1904–1996), bookmaker, was born on 11 December 1904 into a Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland. His father, Abraham Kagarlitsky, died when he was very young; his mother, Jessica, took Joe and his two brothers to London, before the First World War, and they settled in the ...

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Cotton, Sir St Vincent, sixth baronet (1801–1863), sportsman and gambler, was born at Madingley Hall, Madingley, Cambridgeshire, on 6 October 1801, the fourth child and second (but eldest surviving) son of Admiral Sir Charles Cotton (1753–1812) and his wife, Philadelphia (1762/3–1855), eldest daughter of ...

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Davies, William Edmund (1819–1879), bookmaker, was born in London. His father was a carpenter and Davies too entered the building trade, working for Cubitt & Co., contractors and builders, Gray's Inn Road, London. On one occasion he was sent to Newmarket to help repair the inside of the subscription rooms. Whether this influenced him to begin taking bets from his fellow workers is a matter for conjecture, but his success as a petty bookmaker enabled him to give up working as a carpenter. He was a major pioneer of the betting list, in which the names of horses and the odds against them would be displayed openly, often in public-house windows. His first list was at the ...

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Freind, William (1668/9–1745), Church of England clergyman and lottery winner, was born probably at Croughton, Northamptonshire, where his father, William Freind (1634–1689), was rector; his mother was Anne Freind, née Smith (d. 1722). Robert Freind (1666/7–1751) and John Freind (1675–1728) were his brothers. He was educated at ...

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William Hill (1903–1971) by unknown photographer, 1951 ? Popperfoto

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Hill, William (1903–1971), bookmaker, was born in Birmingham on 16 July 1903, the second son and fourth of the eleven children (there were also a twin son and daughter who died at birth) of William Hill, journeyman coach-painter, and his wife, Lavinia Knight...

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See Lowther, John, first Viscount Lonsdale

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Gordon Goodwin

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Lucas, Theophilus (fl. 1714), writer on gambling, inherited, according to his own assertion, an estate of £2000 a year, which he lost at the gaming tables. To deter his son, who was the 'very next heir to £1,500 per annum by the death of an uncle' (...

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See Henry Frederick, Prince, duke of Cumberland and Strathearn

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MacKay, Peter Carl [called Ras Prince Monolulu] (1881–1965), racing tipster, claimed to have been born in Addis Ababa, Abyssinia, the son of a chieftain of a Jewish tribe. In later life he certainly knew some Yiddish, which he had acquired from a Jewish employer. Recent research has established, however, that he was born on 26 October 1881 on the island of ...

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Peter Carl MacKay (1881–1965) by Karl Pollak, 1948 ? reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ogden, William (fl. c. 1790), bookmaker, is a figure whose life is obscure, but is nevertheless credited as the 'father of bookmaking' (Bookmaking then and now, 78).

For centuries horse-racing involved the matching of two horses by owners who wished to bet against each other. These contests were often foregone conclusions and were sterile for betting purposes. Consequently by the late 1750s sweepstakes had come into vogue. Such races included more horses and so had a variety of outcomes. The increased number of owners involved in a contest meant that there was a selection of odds against their horses winning. This meant that a clever owner could bet in a more sophisticated fashion. He could cover himself against the loss of his horse and the prize money by backing other runners to win....