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Bernard W. Dempsey, S. In a centralized economy, currency is issued by a central bank at a rate that is supposed to match the growth of the amount of goods that are exchanged so that these goods can be traded with stable prices. The monetary base is controlled by a central bank.

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So it should be no surprise that it has ended up as something of a dead loss. Because, as I received the hurry-up I was just contemplating an article about that very thing — dead losses. It appears — and it must be true, because it was in The Times — that in Taiwan they have grown weary of more traditional betting pursuits and a craze has developed for betting on how likely or unlikely hospital patients in the city of Taichung are to survive for an allocated period of time.

The market usually offers a time period of a month as the length of time the patient has to stay alive — or not — depending on which way you decide to wager. If the patient pegs it within the month, the house takes the lot — the longer he or she lives beyond that, the greater the payout to punters. So far, so morbid, but before we get on our high horses, consider the website, www.

However, the bet was never settled as both of the toffs topped themselves over gambling debts before either of their selected old-timers had shuffled off this mortal coil. The end of last year brought a new arrival to the Nottinghamshire town of New Ollerton. It goes by the name of Bishops Bookmakers. It had been a betting shop since , run by a variety of owners, so the local community had been used to having one on their doorstep.

But when the previous occupant ceased trading last summer it appeared that the business had gone the way of all too many small independents, just another victim of recessionary times and soaring costs. Not so. For Keith Bishop, with the help of a silent partner, has brought the shop back to life. It was a whole new challenge. I made a lot of friends there, really liked the place, but when I came back I needed another challenge.

I drove up and had a look. It had already been closed for a couple of weeks by the time I came to see it but the screens and tables and chairs were all still here. We spent three months fitting it out; we did everything ourselves.

We put in new carpets, gave the place a good clean and a coat of paint. On arrival, Keith envisaged his customers being supporters of Mansfield, Nottingham Forest, Notts County and the usual clutch of Manchester United fans. Many miners and their families migrated south to Nottinghamshire, where mining was then still a thriving industry. New Ollerton itself was originally built as a colliery village in the mids to coincide with the opening of Ollerton colliery.

But times have changed. It closed in and now just one Nottinghamshire mine remains active, Thoresby Colliery in the village of Edwinstowe, a couple of miles north of New Ollerton. There is a large residential area to draw upon plus the convenience of street parking outside the shop, whereas parking is difficult at the local competition, the William Hill and Ladbrokes shops, which are a minute walk away on the high street.

The shop has two FOBT machines. He is currently living locally in a flat, while his partner, Katie, and three children, Rebekah, 7, George, 5, and two-year-old Edward, have all remained in Redditch for the present but will be joining him later in the year. Our hours are 10am-8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sunday. This did not apply to non-licensed offices where business was conducted solely by phone or post. Although the estimated number of betting shops was 15,, only around 4, felt sufficiently disposed to subscribe to the service.

Those who elected to opt out would be disconnected from the commentary. Furthermore, it would be a condition of the agreement that the scale of charges would not be increased for seven years. The funds made available to the Association would, said the Brigadier, enable racecourses to meet the ever-increasing rise in operational expenses in the face of declining attendances and would help them to run as sound commercial concerns — an objective which, he added, was obviously in the interests of the bookmaking profession.

James Dance, Conservative Minister for Bromsgrove, had told Home Secretary Henry Brooke in the House of Commons that people connected with racing, including many prominent bookmakers, felt that magistrates had been far too lenient in the granting of shop licenses. Another betting shop-related issue was raised by J P Price, the Labour Minister for West Houghton, who said that he had repeatedly warned that current legislation would lead to a great increase of gambling by women during shopping expeditions and would also lead to continuous betting.

These fears, he maintained, had been completely realised. Chris Pitt looks back to and the. In his Budget speech on May 3, , Chancellor of the Exchequer Jim Callaghan confirmed the rumours that had been circulating for some time: that betting tax was about to be introduced. The Chancellor stated that it would commence on October 24 but gave no details on how it would be worked out or collected.

It appeared that Customs and Excise officials were just as much in the dark as bookmakers. The only thing that appeared certain was that the rate of tax would be sixpence in the pound 2. The Chancellor said in his speech that his proposals for taxing betting and gaming had generally been well received. I believe the majority of those affected will conform to the new legislation, but I warn anyone who is thinking of evasion that the Customs and Excise are not innocents abroad in these matters.

They have certainly broadened my education. And bookmakers will remember that on conviction their licenses can be lost. What appeared likely was that large, reputable firms would co-operate, but a sizeable minority would gamble on evading the tax without being detected. It was therefore imperative that the authorities devised a way of minimising evasion.

He would at once attract custom from his rivals, who would have to compete or go to the wall. And if they did go to the wall, the increased turnover accruing to the first bookmaker would make paying tax an economic proposition. In a front page editorial, the Sporting Life suggested a simple way out: deductions from returns. Punters with something to come back would be paying the remainder. Afternoons were a madhouse, with a cacophony of jangling bells, shouted phone calls, scampering feet, a clattering tape-machine, the nonstop banging of bets under time-stamps by Ita, an Irish beauty, and Gwen, a cricket nut, all accompanied by — depending on how the results went — yelps of triumph or volleys of curses.

Lou, husky and with the weathered features of a racecourse representative, introduced me all round. I also met the third brother, Ted, the jovial accountant of the family who presided over the daily chaos and beamed winning smiles even when he was losing. But Lou was right: I did find out more about what went on deep inside the gambling game than I could possibly have discovered anywhere else at that time.

Why did the brothers want me? It turned out they were misinformed. Someone told them I was the fastest settler in London. Especially when Bob offered me a lot more than William Hill was paying me, plus something Hill never dreamed of handing out: a weekly cash bonus based on profits. When I clocked the faces of the other settlers working for the Guiness boys I knew I was home free. The firms he favoured were marked with an asterisk; they paid slightly more than the usual shilling 5p in the pound for win money.

For those too young to know, the first three letters of an exchange had to be dialled before entering the number. All these names were colourful while they lasted. Then one day some nameless moron took away the romance. Sam Frances was fined for endangering pedestrians. To celebrate, the Guiness brothers brought out the Scotch. Ernie Heasman had a fund of racing stories, but the one I liked best was when he regaled us with how he made lots of money from one of his non-bookmaking advertisers.

He told us that when he handled the Optrex Eye Lotion account, he invited the manufacturers to pay him a fee every time he managed to get the name of their product printed in the editorial columns of the newspapers. They jumped at it because such references are the best publicity one can get, far more effective than advertising. So what did Ernie do? He changed the name of a group of female singers he knew who were appearing every night in variety theatres and clubs across the country.

As long as Optrex was mentioned, everyone was happy and Ernie got paid. Everyone simply backed his dogs and made money. Bob quietly did the same in hundreds of small bets everywhere. We may have been mystified by how Lorenzo pulled it off, but he too must have been baffled as to why he was suddenly winning big money. Our credit account week ended after the last greyhound race. I was one of the first to be dropped, living as I did in Shepherds Bush. Lou told me this when he was working as a racecourse rep, and I was by then doing the same job for Jack Swift.

Lou generously gave me good advice on the best way to invest large amounts on the course and beat the SP. But he also told me business back at the office was slumping because of the idiotically high commission rates being offered to the trade by new firms of bookmakers. Sadly, all this was brought home to me years later when I was working as a columnist for the Sporting Life.

The former leviathan layer Bob Guiness phoned me one morning and asked if I could give him a little publicity. Bob gave me a rueful smile. Our business slipped, then it was a landslide. As for his son, young Bobby, the last I heard of the once-rightful heir to the Guiness millions he was working as a supervisor for William Hill. Pat began his riding career in and rode his first winner at Manchester in He then became second jockey behind Gerry Scott to trainer Neville Crump. Pat remembers Carrickbeg and John Lawrence later Lord Oaksey sailing past him before the second last.

My dad always told me to never go for the front, always have a lead. I nailed Carrickbeg on the run in. His role is now steward of the Emirates Racing Authority. David Owen, author of a new book on Foinavon, and winning rider John Buckingham discussed the events surrounding that famous renewal, including how John rode Foinavon through the streets of London past Buckingham Palace and how he and Foinavon found themselves in an identical situation 18 months later at Uttoxeter when, at the second last, a horse ran out and took most of the field with him, leaving the pair once again in splendid isolation.

Jockey Daryl Jacob was given instructions that if the horse felt even the slightest bit uncomfortable beneath him, to pull him up. That proved unnecessary as they got a dream trip all the way around, avoiding loose and fallen horses.

Daryl spoke movingly of how Kieran Kelly, tragically killed in a fall at Kilbeggan in , had taken him under his wing when he first started working for Dessie Hughes in Ireland. Daryl has been riding for Paul Nicholls as second jockey behind Ruby Walsh since Liam Treadwell, who has become a regular panellist, hit his own rough patch 12 months ago and was seriously considering packing it in when he was approached to ride for Venetia Williams, for whom he rode Mon Mome to win the National.

There, Pat Buckley and his brother Seamus, who is clerk of the course at Goodwood, were reunited with two dozen of their northern based riding colleagues. Roughly half of them are re-homed by the Retired Greyhound Trust. The RGT is a registered charity, established in and dedicated to finding homes for greyhounds when their racing days are over. It has over 70 branches across the length and breadth of Britain, run almost exclusively by a regiment of more than 1, volunteers.

In the Trust re-homed its 60,th greyhound, an exceptional achievement given that it is only in the last 10 to 15 years that people have begun to see greyhounds as pets. Peter came to the job without charity experience but, having spent seven years at the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and its predecessor the British Greyhound Racing Board, he possesses a thorough knowledge of the structure of the industry and its politics. The job encompassed a wide range of policy and security matters, one of his key roles being secretary to the Board of Trustees at the RGT.

The public can come and meet the dogs, away from a racing environment. It takes the greyhounds out of the racing routine into a relaxed kennel environment with a different routine. All branches have websites and promote greyhounds on them. There are still a number of misconceptions that need dispelling for greyhounds to be universally accepted as pets.

The public see them wearing muzzles at the track and perceive them as being aggressive, highly-strung and excitable. The reality is that greyhounds are placid, intelligent animals and readily adapt to a family home, including those that have children and other animals. They become laid back. Another misconception is that greyhounds, being trained athletes, require a lot of exercise. Again, not true. Some of our supporters like to adopt the more difficult greyhounds, those that are a bit more boisterous, stronger or perhaps nervous, because they like the challenge of really turning a greyhound around.

The volunteers are very good at that matching process and that means that relatively few greyhounds come back to us. Typically a male greyhound weighs kilos whereas a bitch is We do have a slight issue in the imbalance of the sexes in some of our kennels.

Most greyhounds, per cent in our care, are black. When you have a kennel full of black dogs and one fawn dog, the public are drawn towards the fawn dog. He believes the RGT to be the biggest single breed dog re-homing charity, certainly in the UK, if not the world.

They discussed why greyhounds make great pets and dispelled some of the myths about the breed. Yet despite all the plaudits and high-profile promotion, there are major financial challenges to be faced. Approximately 35 per cent of RGT income is from general donations and legacies while 25 per cent comes from other fundraising.

With the tough economy, people are cutting back on their giving. Sales of merchandise are a welcome source of income. Although the RGT sold fewer packs of Christmas cards last year, a fact that Peter puts down to the rise in postage and more people sending e-cards, there has been a marked rise in the sale of calendars.

Although Christmas cards were down, we introduced some other lines which were very successful. At any one time there are over greyhounds in kennels, awaiting homes. These are the people who, we believe, will support us through fundraising and re-homing.

We got a good response, sufficiently good to warrant another run of it this year. They were seen as the enemy. Collection tins in shops are one way to help. Another is promotional open days with retired greyhounds from the local branch coming to meet the public.

What differentiates one brand over another? Early prices are one thing but, ultimately, a chain of shops that supports a particular charity might just identify that brand and make it stand out over the competition. Bookmakers interested in helping the RGT with either a collection box or promotional day, should visit the Retired Greyhound Trust website — www. People who are unable to adopt a dog can still help by sponsoring one with a regular monthly contribution towards the cost of looking after them in kennels.

In return, they will receive a profile of the dog, an enamel badge, RGT car sticker and even a Valentines card. This is particularly relevant as the RGT never destroys a healthy greyhound, hence some will be permanent or long-term residents.

Furthermore, unlike some non-destruct charities, the RGT is not selective regarding the dogs it takes in. That can take time. We will also euthanize greyhounds that are dangerous and unsafe to be homed. Each year RGT is represented at over shows throughout the country, ranging from Crufts, Discover Dogs and county shows to shopping malls and supermarket car parks.

He is pleased to report that there has been a big improvement in support and co-operation from greyhound owners and trainers. They are, he says, far more welfare conscious. We are trying to work with owners and trainers to foster a more professional arrangement so that those benefitting from our services are contributing to the cost, and the greyhounds that arrive in our care are in good physical condition. They support us; we help them by homing their dog.

Peter has been in the post for less than two years but has overseen a number of changes and innovations during his time at the helm. We can see some green shoots on that front. We want more people to know more about greyhounds as pets, to know more about what we do as a charity. Ace snapper, Hugh Routledge, who once went to a race meeting to aim his camera for the Times, only to end up presenting the trophy for the main event of the afternoon, was also on hand to record the events of the day for posterity.

Peter obliged, and there was a genuine outpouring of warmth at the news relayed by Tommo to racegoers that Peter had taken the trouble to give the assembled racegoers the benefit of his experienced opinion from his sick bed. It was a very enjoyable experience, with Mr Tuck regaling us with various stories of his own lengthy riding career and his time at Sedgefield.

Mind you, he made not a mention of ducks on the way round — nor did any of us spot any of the creatures peeking out of any of the jumps, which made it all the more surprising that just a couple of meetings later the course had to announce that they would be missing out one of the fences as a duck was nesting in, or at the foot of, it.

The papers had a field day with the story — coming out with pun-filled headlines, rhyming duck with Tuck and other words — such as Luck, and Muck, for example. She took up residence in the apron of fence number six — the first one past the stands — and promptly laid six eggs. In , the Leicestershire town of Loughborough was the destination for the first package tour, organised by a man named Thomas Cook for a temperance group from Leicester. A little over years later, former Ladbrokes manager Adam Tomlinson found Loughborough an equally desirable location for his ChampionBet shop, which opened last November.

But once we found this place I knew it would be just what I was looking for in terms of size and a central, competitive location. Because of the planning system, it was a lot easier to open already having the A2 planning permission. The shopfit was carried out by Sportsbook with the help of the Bookmakers Technology Consortium. It was good to see some of their shops and the way the systems were done. I met Howard a few times to look at how the BTC could help my business.

Not many people outside the industry realise just how much technology goes into a betting shop compared to any other retail shop. Everything has to be integrated in order not only for it to be good for the customer but also to work well for the staff. The picture quality is of the highest standard. No matter how young or old the customers are, they adapt to it very quickly. And Gavin and Wayne were very professional in the way the dealt with everything. They bring a specific knowledge of the betting industry as well as professionalism to the shopfit.

We all worked together and we got everything how I wanted it. Samantha Hensman, my manageress, used to work for me at Ladbrokes so I know her well, and I was fortunate enough to convince her to come and work for me. They proved their worth on what was a successful Grand National day. We had quick slips and a whiteboard with the latest prices on and they were diverting people into the shop. ChampionBet also enjoyed a good Cheltenham with double the amount of normal trade taking advantage of their special offers and guaranteed best odds.

With Ladbrokes and Betfred within 50 metres of us we have to be seen to be competitive. Loughborough, which in hosted the Japanese Olympic team as their base for the London Olympics, is a town of around 60, inhabitants. We are where the action is but you still have to work hard and look after your customers extremely well to gain their trust and their business. Adam started in the industry as a cashier with Ladbrokes in his home town of Peterborough, rising quickly to become deputy manager and then manager.

At first there were only three betting shops in the town, all Ladbrokes, whereas now there are more than a dozen, including a prominent independent presence. He acknowledges that he could never have hoped to set up on his own with the old demand test system. I really enjoyed the customer service element, really enjoyed the racing and, with money changing hands, I found it really interesting.

It averaged three horses a day. We try and look after everyone in the same way. He cites the massive growth in machines business in recent years as the catalyst which has enabled the industry to continue to prosper despite the economy and competition from online gambling, although he acknowledges the difficulties faced by independents.

One of the main problems which has squeezed out independents and made it hard for people like myself is the prevalence of online gambling. But wherever there is change, there is also opportunity. It was a visit to Hove dog track with a friend that sparked his initial flame of interest in betting. That is ultimately what drives the interest. At the most primitive level, a person has an opinion on one thing and someone else has an absolute polar opinion the other way.

Yet James Keefe, the most unassuming and modest bookmaker I ever met, gave me a host of first-class betting stories for my column in the Sporting Life. More than that, he supplied me with scoops I was able to sell to other major national newspapers.

At first, it was a mystery to me how he did it. We always met by chance, no appointments necessary. We simply ran into each other in Covent Garden pubs when the area was a huge market crammed with flowers, fruits and vegetables and filled with scurrying porters, shouting salesmen, and honking trucks swirling round the Sporting Life building standing there in the thick of it. James Keefe was no heavy drinker. He knocked back far less than I did.

His beverage of choice was a light ale. And after downing only one during a chat with anyone who was handy, he always moved on to his next port of call. Before I tell you about his astonishing knack for giving me valuable betting news and racing gossip, take a look, if you will, at the group photo on this page. He suddenly looked at a portly fellow coming into the bar with a scowl on the jowl over his chins.

On an impulse, Keefe took me over to Robert Morley, an act that led to an important double event for me. He was delighted to see me. Morley put on a broad smile, pushed his way through, then turned to me as if he were in a state of awe and amazement. Fletcher, the editor of the Sporting Life? Oh, the honour, the occasion! Your readers demand you give the boy more space!

Such lavish praise from a film and stage star, top playwright and racehorse owner was a bit of luck for me. To top this, H. I owed these early successes, of course, to a chance remark by a certain Covent Garden bookmaker. I had no idea he was about to spring another journalistic bombshell and bring me bundles of cash.

His uncle does the same thing at the Haymarket. James Keefe sipped his light ale. But I soon found out that this time James Keefe had been misinformed. Extra money began rolling in. Here, let me get you something. It soon dawned on me how he got so much info about events in the show business world: the area he operated in was bordered by Shaftesbury Avenue, the Strand, High Holborn and the Aldwych, and packed with theatres.

Show business staff used the Keefe shops and he got their gossip either across his counters or in the pubs. Sold his story the same way;. Sold it to two magazines;. He made a hilarious picture story clad in his toga togs. I was learning fast that in my new job in journalism freelancing on the side brings in useful extra cash. He also gave to appeals by the local Bow Street police for donations to their charitable functions.

And he brought down the house with jokes about the various coppers he played early on in his acting career. Full support was promised to all those willing to give information. All thanks to the unassuming James Keefe who never once even hinted to me that he ever read my stuff. I had indeed. The critics hated the show but the audience loved Charlie, especially when stagehands scampered on to stoop and scoop just before an important love scene.

An idea came to me in a flash. Can you please make sure he eats one before each of his shows today? The stage doorkeeper nodded and I went away knowing that now I had a real scoop on my hands. No other reporter knew what I knew about punters actually betting on Charlie.

But sadly, as I watched in dismay, Charlie behaved impeccably at both shows even though he was urged on by eager reporters and theatergoers alike. I began to suspect the stage doorkeeper might have nobbled the nobbler and eaten both bars. I kept that voucher as a memento for years, a souvenir of James Keefe and his wonderful bookmaking. Since the company he founded and built up, Star Sports, has acquired leading credit businesses such as Vickers, Turner and Kendrick and Sporting Chance.

Star Sports has a bingo hall in Tralee, Ireland, with a second one in the pipeline, plus prominent racecourse pitches at the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. And then there are the adverts, those innovative, ever-changing, humorous eye-catching strips that appear in the Racing Post on a daily basis, not to mention the full-page ads that coincide with the major meetings, all supplied by betting and gaming industry marketing specialists Square in the Air.

He has a wonderful feel for the game and the industry. Ben Keith is the son of a solicitor whose first case involved Mary Bell, the notorious year-old child convicted of the manslaughter of two small boys in It was without doubt a baptism of fire. But although Ben includes reading true crime books among his hobbies, he was to follow his father into the legal profession.

Instead his fate was sealed when his parents gave way to his pestering and took him to Hove greyhounds when he was 12 years old. I just loved the hustle and bustle of the betting ring. Challenges included compiling odds on the identity of the next Head Boy, while making sure to keep the outgoing Head Boy, who had a big say in the choice of replacement, firmly on his side. He produced a study on greyhound racing for a school GCSE project, including a section on the mathematics of making a book, a portent of his future career path.

Work experience with City Index while still at school led to full-time employment with the spread betting firm, followed by a stint working for Tony Bloom for the Victor Chandler organisation in Gibraltar. If you went , he was a backer at , a layer at Every single angle was looked into. I still use principles I learned from him today. I bet to figures as a layer and I bet to figures as a punter. But it was the greyhounds that were his first love, standing, aged 24, at Sittingbourne and Walthamstow, where he operated alongside his childhood hero Tony Morris, the doyen of greyhound bookmakers.

At Walthamstow the open race nights were exceptional too but I played too much on the graded races there and learned some hard lessons. If it had been just open races at Walthamstow it would have been a goldmine. Walthamstow gave me my first profile. Star Racing — as Star Sports was originally branded — once had six betting shops but no longer has any. Put simply, Ben is not a retail man. They are trained to know the business and know the clients — at least 90 per cent are on first name terms.

He is aware that credit punters are astute punters. That is how I am about gamblers. For a bookmaker, money is ammunition. He saw it as a psychological barrier that he felt compelled to overcome. You make yourself the person you want to be. If you keep trying, eventually you become that person.

He also endeavours to make rational decisions that are not based on fear or greed. Danger is a factual thing. But fear is a choice. That may all sound fine and dandy but there was a time when things went so badly wrong that he briefly contemplated giving up. Psychologically, that takes some getting over.

I play punters, I go head to head. I can never escape from the game. The game is part of me. He found it a life-changing experience. In addition, it has pledged to finance any of the children that want to go on to university. The last five years have seen rapid progress for Star Sports. Looking back rather than forward for a moment, even though he now does business on a far higher level he insists that, in terms of personal satisfaction, nothing compares with the thrill of that first night at Walthamstow ten years ago, standing at his pitch alongside his boyhood hero Tony Morris.

However busy it was, he remained calm. It was his preparation. He was the first person at the track, he knew everybody and everybody knew him. He had relationships. Information is the most valuable commodity in our game. You have to be able to assimilate information, filter good from bad information but most of all you have to know the value of information.

Tony Morris was somebody who, understood that whereas others thought people just go for the best price. The betting ring used to be a real community. It was a place where people learned the game. They were trading with each other; they were sending money to the silver ring at I think bookmakers then had a much better understanding of the figures of the game.

I learned a lot about many different things in the betting ring. It provided me with some great and kind teachers. It was the highlight of my adolescence. It was like a bubble of happiness. I feel honoured to be able to add to that. Within a year I was manually settling. By she was managing her first shop, in Middlesbrough, before moving south. I enjoy bringing in new people and developing them.

The Coral shop manager from next door and the Betfred manager just three doors further away both came in to congratulate me. Her sons, Aydin, 20, and Emil, 16, excel in open water swimming. Both are regional champions while Aydin was national champion three times She hit the ground running, her first engagement being to present the trophy to the winner of the William Hill St Leger.

There, along with her partner, Dan, she enjoyed the hospitality of the Singapore Turf Club. There are different areas and different floors, all with a comfy chairs area and lots of self-service betting terminals. There was a bar, a dart board, a pool table, even a mini-golf area. So tell your kids to get "in the face" of the bar staff if they want to get served or they will be ignored. The pools were clean and very good to use. There are two slides, one open and the other enclosed.

The enclosed slide is quite dark inside. The water was lovely and warm. The kids pool is great fun and has a large bucket about 2 metres across which fills with water and then tips everywhere from quite high up. It does this about every 2 minutes. There is a swim-up bar on the edge of the pool.

Down near the shallow end of the pool is a snack-bar serving pizza, sausage, salads and chips all day long. The sunbeds were plentiful - we never had any issues getting a sunbed. The hotel operates a ticket for towels policy around the pool. You are issued with tickets which you exchange for a clean beach towel. When you hand in your towel, you get your ticket back. You are issued with a few spare towel tickets on arrival.

We did not have any problems with beach towels during our stay. The beach towel staff are friendly and helpful and will set up your towel onto your sunbed for you. Tipping is discretionary - however we found we got the same service with and without tipping - which was refreshing. After all - you don't always have cash on you when visiting the pool!

I don't know if this is high or low - but we considered it to be comparatively adequate. The paths are clean throughout the complex. The gardens are beautiful and well maintained. There are a number of facilities in the hotel like a very good gym, lovely relaxing spa pool and kids club.

My children were just under the age limit to join in the year old kids club activities - but were far too mature to join in the year old activities - so did not make any use of the kids club. However, they took part in the excellent activities organised by the First Choice team for all age groups which ran throughout the day. There are a number of shops on site. The shop-keepers will try to intice you into their shops.

They are very friendly and good-natured - so it is very difficult to just do what you want to do or intend to do when you visit these. There is a sports bar behind the foot of the stairs near reception - however, as most people who were using it smoked - if you don't enjoy a smoky atmosphere - it is not an enjoyable experience.

The bar has three TVs showing 3 different sports channels. They occasionally show live Premiereship matches and live Rugby matches. The swimming pool slide tower has a "zip wire" attached to it which runs right down to the beach. Great fun if you enjoy stepping off 40 foot high buildings and sliding down a thin wire at 25 MPH! One of my children enjoyed it and went twice but the other one did not want to go on it.

The food was good - apart from the pastries - which were excellent! There was a huge selection of breads, croissants and cakes available every day. There was a good selection of food available and every night had a different theme running. For example, Western - when all the staff dressed up as cowboys and a section of the kitchen served barbecue dishes, etc.

The "general" selection of food which was available most days included beef, chicken, veal, cold meats, salads, rice, potatoes, chips, char-grilled vegetables, stewed vegetables, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, curry, cauliflower cheese, risotto, paella, speghetti, pasta, numerous local fish dishes and lasagna.

The only real issue we had with the food was that there were always bones in chicken dishes. Anybody complaining that the food is the same really should have walked around the choices a bit more in my opinion.

We never found this was the case during our day stay. There are also three other restaurants for which complimentary tickets are provided. Chinese, Indian and Medtiterranean. Of these, we really enjoyed the Mediterranean the best - mainly because of the excellent peppered steak.

Book up early, though - we had a 3-day wait when we booked - as this is the most popular restaurant on the site. The restaurant we liked second best was the Sari Indian. Their curry was not very hot but after we discussed this with the manager, he informed us that the previous chef used to cook the curry "too hot".

Therefore, I daresay that in time, they will get their "hotness" correct. The meal we enjoyed the least was the Bamboo Chinese. This meal was far too bland for me. Probably because our local Chinese restaurant to where we live is so good! So if you're going to book up - book the Mediterranean restaurant first!

The red house wine will make your hair stand on end. I would not clean my floor with it. You have been warned! The white is not too bad. Baccardi, Baileys and Tia Maria are just a few of the drinks that are unavailable. After speaking with a First Choice rep - I was informed that they are negotiating to import these drinks onto their site. However, the rep thought that this could take quite a long time. We like drinking Baccardi and Coke. However, the local Rum and Coke was not too far away from the taste and we soon got used to drinking that as an alternative.

As we both enjoy Baileys as well - though - there is no local equivalent available - so we did miss that quite a lot. We found out that it could be bought from nearby Naama Bay - but we did not go there at all as we were told by everybody that they wished that they had not gone there due to the constant harrassment of retailers trying to lure tourists into their shops. One woman was complaining that she got locked in one shop and wasn't allowed to go until she had bought something!

Very limited. There was a seemingly endless list of fruit drinks available though. One drink I particularly enjoyed was a fruit cocktail with a dash of Vodka in it. It was very refreshing. And by the end of the evening we were completely "refreshed"!! However, these could easily be obtained via the pool bar - or by asking in the main restauraunt. We used to take a jug of milk from the restaurant every morning and put it in the fridge in our room to use for coffee, etc.

The evening entertainment was of a very high standard. For children, there is the Crows Feet Island club which ran every evening from about 8pm. At 9pm, there was bingo - which surprisingly, my children really enjoyed! After that, at pm, the amphitheatre entertainment began. The amphitheatre had good lighting and a great sound system. Large cushions are provided. We preferred to sit on sunbeds overlooking the amphitheatre from the top.

However, mosquitos also like this area - so ensure you have repellant on if you sit near the plants at the top of the amphitheatre. The entertainment duirng our stay included singing, dancing, comedians, people walking on broken glass and diving onto swords, fire-breathers, Egyptian dancers and an excellent version of Mother Goose pantomime.

One person in particular, Gemma Andrew, was an absolutely outstanding entertainer and was a real pleasure to listen to. She is a real entertainer and thrilled us every time she danced and sang. Entertainment finishes at midnight in the resort. We felt that we didn't need to go outside of the resort after that time but there is a lot of local entertainent available after midnight if required, including a Beduin tent on the beach offering shisha pipes and comfortable cushions and a disco right next door.

However, like I said, we didn't go outside so I can't comment on the quality. So what can you do around the resort during the day? The sand is a bit gritty - but not terribly so. However, it's so flat and large that you can easily find your private area.

The bar staff are brilliant and will serve you drinks on your sunbeds on the beach. The hotel also operates the towels for tickets on the beach - and the beach staff will take the towels to your sunbeds and set you up on the beach.

They really take care of you here! We enjoyed not having to do much on occasions as, having twin boys, it does take it out of you a bit with them on the go all the time - so made a lovely change for us both. We tipped the beach bar staff about every other visit - which they obviously seemed happy with.

However, this whole place comes alive when you walk out into the sea and look down. Beautiful tropical fish in crystal clear water. Once you do this, you will fall in love with this place straight away. Further out is the drop-off. You can walk out along the pontoon and look down into the water. The pontoon is about m long but the water is only about 1m deep right at the end of it. If you keep going out, the water gets a bit deeper 1. It is advisable absolutely essential! There are sharp pieces of coral, sea urchins and other sharp objects probably shells - as well as the remote chance that you could stand on a fish which will poison you - such as a stone fish - although nobody saw one around this area during our stay.

It is quite easy to snorkel in the 1m deep water - this area is as big as twenty football pitches - making it safe and enjoyable for the whole family. You will see fish of every shape, size and colour. Several trips operate from the beach including:- Sorkelling for the family everybody wears life preservers, the kit is supplied, and the boat takes you to three locations ; Scuba diving for the more adventurous - although I did not go scuba diving - because it was not a family activity - most people I spoke to who went scuba diving couldn't wait to get back down there!

Glass bottom boat trips recommended - see below ; Quad biking through the desert; Para-gliding; and, of course, Camel riding. We went on a glass-bottom boat trip and I would wholeheartedly recommend to anybody.

He is an Arsenal supporter for his sins. A minibus picks you up and takes you to the location. You have to get out and cross a very busy road while the staff stop or attempt to stop the passing traffic for you - not entirely safe as most motorists were very annoyed and were edging forward all the time we were crossing. You are lead through a hotel, onto their private beach and then you have to walk along floating pontoons which are about 50m long - to get onto the glass bottom boat.

Right away you can see tropical fish swimming under the boat. It's such an excellent view. There are eight c. You sit down on a seat overlooking the bottom of the boat. You are taken to several locations on a trip which lasts for approximately one hour. Soft drinks are included in the price. It's easy to see why people enjoy scuba diving so much here. The views are stunning and the fish and coral equally so. This was an unforgetable experience enjoyed by all of us.

The trip home provided something I hadn't imagined - a night view of Cairo - which was one of the highlights of my holiday. Absolutely fantastic. If you find yourself flying at night, after only about 10 minutes of flight, take a gander out of your window - you won't be disappointed! I was also seated at the front of the aircraft - giving me the extra legroom I needed - which was a relief and very much appreciated.

Would we go back next year? Absolutely, yes. Simply the legroom or lack of it on the flight. I hope you found the above informative and that I've helped you to enjoy your holiday as much as we enjoyed ours. Just returned from holiday at end of October, want to go back now, please!! What a fantastic place, well designed, planned and thought out to make your stay memorable. Excellent food variety cooked while you wait, including the 3 dine around restaurants as part of the all inclusive package.

Rooms were huge, very clean with air con, tea making facilities, walk in rain shower and secure. The 4 sets of pools made sure you always had some where to go and were very clear and clean. The Egyptian staff are fantastic, friendly, very courteous and helpful, get to know them and it makes your holiday.

A must is the snorkelling, go to the edge of the reef and see a fantastic range of coral and fish, the sea is warm, clear and safe. A wide range of activities to keep all people happy, you will not want to go anywhere else. When we arrived at the Holiday village we was pleased with the check in at reception.

Really surprised at how good the resort looked,seeing as i had been reading the reviews before we went,We did not see any building work at all the whole time we was there. Grounds and pools were excellent.

The kids den rooms were massive,largest bed i have ever seen,The air con could not have been better, It was so cold you had too turn it off most off the time. Which is what you need in egypt,Being so hot. There was supposed to be a play Station in the kids dens,Which there was,But the lead was missing,So we asked reception many times if they could sort one out for us.

But they never managed too,Which greatly disappointed our son. The kids soccer school was great and the first choice coaches were excellent with the kids. My son could not wait to go every day. The pool bar was a bit off a pain in the day to get a drink,The queue was quite long most off the time,And they were always running out off ice cream.

Harderly ever any glasses to drink out off,Always those silly little plastic cups which drove me mad. And if you was lucky enough too get a glass they were warm out off the dish washer. The main buffet restaurant was fine not as good as i thought it would be.

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