With Cheltenham only days away, eager punters will be gathering their tips, guarding them as if they were pure gold while pondering the usual each-way forecast, or place it-on-the-nose dilemmas, and with questions like those to consider what better place to have the craic, get a few wins in, and truely enjoy this great horse-racing festival than at Brian Fahy Bookmakers.
Brian Fahy Bookmakers - with shops located in Woodquay, Seacrest in Knocknacarra, and Society Street in Ballinasloe - prides itself on providing customers with a true betting shop atmosphere, a place where you can relax while selecting the bet of the day and availing of top quality service, competitive pricing, as well as regular specials and competitions. Customer service and coming up with innovative ideas to stay ahead of the competition is the key to the survival of independent businesses such as Brian Fahy Bookmakers. According to owner and Galway city native Brian Fahy “betting local” is of the upmost importance not just for independent bookmakers but also for the punters themselves, as “when you’re backing with me, it is with me, and not with stakeholders [of chains]”.
A Galway owned independent business focusing on customer service
“We’re a local Galway owned business that focuses on providing customers with more specials, free bets, nap competitions every week, we try to compete in terms of price, to give the best possible, and the staff in our shops are very friendly giving customers a better quality of service, a place where they can relax, place a bet, and have the craic too. I have a really great team in place - Alan and Clare in Knocknacarra, Danny, Alan, and my daughter Jessie in Woodquay, and David, Ned, and Linda in Ballinasloe,” said Brian whose son Gerard had also been learning the ropes before heading off to Australia.
Brian, who is also the proud father of 10-year-old Oran, and nine-year-old Jake, caught the bug for the bookies while shadowing his father, Bartley, who often backed the horses. “I would just tag along and ended up getting interested in backing the horses as well, so when I was 18 years old I first got started in the betting industry. I just enjoyed it,” said Brian, who in 1989 opened up his first betting shop in Headford before closing that and moving on to set up in Athenry in 1990.
“The Athenry shop was the only bookmakers in the town at the time, I had the town to myself for about 15 years. It was a good shop and I got on well with the people, made a lot of friends out there. It was going really well for a good few years but I started to see more competition coming into the town and it just wasn’t big enough. It was a good time to move on and so I sold the Athenry shop. Everyone was opening up betting shops during the Celtic Tiger, it was just mad. The number of shops in the country grew from 800 to 1,200 in a very fast period. For a small town it went from one to three shops and I knew that the cake wasn’t big enough. And so I opened up in Ballinasloe in 2002, and I’ve had that ever since.
“I took a major leap in 2007 when I opened up a betting shop in Knocknacarra, and Woodquay, in the same year. The Seacrest shop is going very well at the moment as the population and the interest is there. I was looking at that location for about 20 years. I opened in Woodquay because I wanted to be in the city centre and then the opportunity came up to open beside Hughes Pub which is a good punting pub,” said Brian, who added that staff in all three betting shops are now gearing up for the ever popular Cheltenham Festival which kicks off on Tuesday, March 13.
Plenty of specials, bonuses, and great prices for the Cheltenham festival
“Cheltenham is certainly the highlight of the year and Woodquay in particular is a good place for betting during the festival with real punter friendly pubs in the vicinity. There are also punter friendly pubs near to our Ballinasloe shop such as Joe Kelly’s. The Seacrest shop is also a great place, especially for local people who want to come in and place a bet in a comfortable and easy-going place.” Brian explained that with business expected to treble during Cheltenham there will be plenty of daily nap competitions, such as a €100 free bet, plus the winner at the end of the week gets €500 cash. During the festival week Brian Fahy Bookmakers will also have enhanced specials, lots of bonuses on doubles and treble bets as well as great prices.
Staying competitive and looking after customers is the key to success in the bookie industry, especially for independent bookmakers who have had to compete with changes in betting behaviour and trends, the recession, as well as increased financial pressure due to the imposition of the Government betting tax rate.
Keep independent bookies alive by betting local
“There were a couple of bad years in the industry but it has steadied out again. However, because the expenses have just got so high, we’re just getting by, there are a lot of independents that have closed in Galway. There are only a handful of independents left, like PC Sport on the Tuam Road. It is so important to support independent betting shops, there have been a lot of shops that have closed down, five in Galway alone in the last two years resulting in the loss of 10 to 15 jobs. So bet local. Online betting isn’t helping us either. The Government is losing regularly to offshore firms as they pay no tax in this country resulting in a loss of revenue. Betting behaviour has changed as well, the younger generation of punters are not betting the same way as the older ones, and a lot of them have emigrated so that has affected the industry, they were the ones who had the money to spend and were willing to gamble. Stakes per bet have dropped during the recession, during the days of the Celtic Tiger there were punters that were betting bigger amounts, now the €50 fellas have virtually disappeared and have been replaced by the small stakes,” said Brian, who explained that his business is constantly looking at ways to keep up with these changes, to face the challenges, and adapt.
“The plan for the business is to stay at what we are doing, and to continue to be competitive, and ensure that customers get a better service from my shops,” said Brian, who added that his business is currently in talks to develop an iPhone application to facilitate betting for events such as the European Football Championships. Whatever the future may hold, whatever rewards tips may reap, get down to Brian Fahy Bookmakers for Cheltenham and many other betting events throughout the year.
Brian Fahy Bookmaker shops are open from 10am to 6.30pm, during winter months - with late opening for Irish racing only - and during summer months opening times are from 9.30am with late opening to 9.30pm six nights a week.