If you are familiar with the show Peaky Blinders, then you know that the infamous gang were inspired by the real-life versions of what you see on your screens. However, like most shows not all of what you see on TV is what happened. In this article, we are going to be breaking down the real facts about bookmaking that were missed in the show and what was invented for pure entertainment.
The show may have gotten some things wrong but got one important detail correct and that is the reality that the Peaky Blinders were in fact illegal bookies. At the time the only possible legal venues in England were racetracks and this was due to the Gambling Act of 1845. The Gaming Act 1845, which limited all types of gaming to the racetrack, was introduced to deter gambling. The government decided to implement a “no cheating rule” to turn bets into formal contracts because it had grown concerned about the pastime. This regulation made racetrack con artists subject to up to two years in prison, which put a halt to their practices. This of course made the racetracks a major place for individuals who were looking to spend some money. Back then, betting took place at the Racecourse or in a back alley; making them the perfect place for gangs to start marking their territory and taking advantage of the situation by bullying others to promote illegal betting.
Shelby’s Reign on Bookmaking
If the main protagonist, Thomas Shelby, made as much money as portrayed in the series, he would have been a millionaire. According to a devoted fan, who spent time calculating how much Tommy would have earned in a year from his bookmaking business, Shelby would have earned about 13 million pounds.
Illegal bookmaking was not as widespread or lucrative as it is depicted on the television show and this is due to early development of the telephone, special expedition trains that took gamblers to the racetracks and law enforcement. Here you can find more accurate information here about the history of bookmaking.
Gambling: The Poor and the Rich
In the series there was emphasis on rich people gambling, but gambling was as popular amongst the poor as much as it was with the rich. The benchmarks were set by Newmarket and the Jockey Club, but most of the races were held in landowners’ fields and in the burgeoning towns for huge amounts of local prestige and tiny financial payouts. All social classes, from the working class to royalty, took part in the wagering system, which was crucial to the financing and expansion of the industry. High society was in charge, and they went out of their way to keep the riffraff out and the criminal element away from the betting. Since there was actual money on the line, the system required knowledgeable jockeys, trainers, grooms, and breeders, creating new, prominent jobs for rural working-class men.
The years depicted in the show appeared to have been greatly impacted by the war, not only due to the vast number of individuals suffering from physical and psychological effects of the war, but also due to the series’ frequent allusions to it. It is true that the economy had to deal with a heavy debt load and that many residents suffered catastrophic misfortunes, but contrary to popular belief, people did not grieve the war as much as one might think. They were anxious because they could smell another battle coming, but unlike the romantically imagined Great War, this time, volunteers would not be needed.
The 1960s saw the advent of physical and mortar bookies, which was a significant milestone in the history of bookmakers and a step towards the industry as we know it today. As soon as bookmaking was allowed outside of racetracks, the industry underwent a significant shift and a sizable new market was created, especially for other popular sports like football, rugby, and cricket.
Since then, many bookmaking businesses have emerged, and today there are several betting shops in practically every town in the UK. There have been numerous significant victories in the UK, as every gambler hopes to do.