Having a flutter on the gee-gees has been a favourite whim since the early days of Combo. It is obviously not my fault. It was my mother who sent me to the bookmaker's shop in Kingsteignton in about 1966 to put two bob each way on Superfine in the Grand National. The first step through that door was like walking into a toy shop. All that smoke, the tinny tannoy commentary, the man marking prices on the board...heaven. I was hooked. Thanks Mum, look what you did to me!
All gambling in Italy is state controlled. If you try and click on to Ladbrokes or Coral or Paddy Power, a page comes up with the Italian Government department crest saying the company does not have a license to operate in Italy. What it really means is, they couldn't cope with the competition. However as I looked longingly a couple of weeks ago at the Royal Ascot page on the Sporting Life site there was an offer from William Hill. Deposit £20 and get a free matched £20 bet. What the hell, I thought. I clicked and, heavens above, the Hill site opened up in all its seductive beauty! I started to fill in the online form, name, address, then country with the huge drop-down menu. A, E, I...hold on, where is Italy? No Italy! I sent off an e-mail to their customer services department and got the tart reply that "William Hill no longer accepts bets from the Italian Republic", with no further elaboration. So, fellow gin-soaked expats here in one of the world's most beautiful countries, if we want to have a bet with William Hill maybe we should move to Armenia or Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan or Liberia, Yemen or Zimbabwe, all of whom are perfectly acceptable to the London bookmaker.