3 October 2007

Mike Atherton - Gambling

Mike Atherton's book purports to be an overview of gambling as a social phenomenon, covering the history of it and the current state of gambling in the UK. It's a huge subject, and it's beyond the former England cricket captain, but he seems to have had fun researching it.

Atherton has a degree from Cambridge, but didn't do much with his intellect for a couple of decades while playing cricket professionally. He now commentates and writes columns, at which he's competent, but he's not a writer. His style is sloppy and casual, and his opinions often not well-considered. On one page early on he refers both to 'proles' and 'liberal elite', which made me check that he wasn't a Mail writer (Telegraph actually)

There wasn't a lot in this book I didn't already know - he covers the South Sea Bubble, and John Law's escapades in Paris, which is widening his brief a bit, but surprisingly doesn't mention Casanova, who ran lotteries and became rich from them. His favourite betting scene is plainly the track, and he gets most involved when writing about horseracing and the decline of the online bookie, whereas poker leaves him bewildered and a bit sheepish.

Some of the colour pieces are amusing - Atherton can be as affable on the page as on screen, although also as irritating. As a populist guide to gambling this is fine, but Atherton was aiming for more than that.


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