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How a century fluttered by at Alexandra Palace racetrack

PUBLISHED: 13:33 25 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:59 07 September 2010

CLLR Matt Cooke has responded to critics who oppose gambling at Alexandra Palace, pointing out that when it hosted horse racing, as it did for more than 100 years until 1970, outdoor gambling was a regular feature. His assurances that a casino is not on

CLLR Matt Cooke has responded to critics who oppose gambling at Alexandra Palace, pointing out that when it hosted horse racing, as it did for more than 100 years until 1970, outdoor gambling was a regular feature.

His assurances that a casino is not on the cards would carry more weight if it was not the intention of the trust to offload the Palace to a new owner. Who knows what they might have in mind in the long term? From a commercial point of view a casino at the Palace would be an obvious money spinner.

Back in the racetrack days, many a family's housekeeping disappeared into a bookmaker's black bag on race nights, never to be seen again. Those were different times, when it wasn't really possible to bet on anything other than dogs and horses, but nowadays bets are available on every conceivable aspect of virtually every sport. Even political contests are open to wagers, and the spread of online gambling, from virtual golf games played by imaginary figures, to party bingo, shows the catch-all nature of the gambling industry.

People don't need to venture from their living rooms to strike a bet, and in this context the availability of a limited betting facility for certain events at Alexandra Palace is unlikely to plunge either the nation or north London into a deep moral or social crisis. A permanent casino would be a different matter in terms of the whole ethos of what should always be an open and accessible asset for the whole of London.

The spread of betting shops, however, continues unabated in some areas and it is understandable that Haringey Council's recent defeat in a court case against a betting chain's licensing application has increased concerns about the ability of local authorities to maintain some form of control.

The idea that a betting company could prevail in an application that was opposed by the council, the police (up to a point) and by local residents, is if anything much more worrying than the current prospect of occasional gambling within the confines of Alexandra Palace.

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