Bob Smale interview

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This interview by Ted Vibert first appeared in Jersey Topic magazine in 1966.

Professionalism

For much of last month television commercials were pumping out the message to buy lottery tickets for the first States lottery to be run in Jersey for a number of years. It was a resounding success. A sell-out in fact.

The lottery has been organised under the strict eye of the Gambling Control Committee and everyone has been impressed with the professionalism of this organisation. I sat in the sun and talked about gambling in general to the man who heads this committee.

Deputy Bobby Smale is a politician who appears to have risen from the political wilderness almost overnight. He has been in the States for nine years now and first stood to represent the views of the hotel industry at a time when there was a big rift between the Tourism Committee and the Hotel and Guest House association. He is the only hotelier in the States.

He first became interested in gambling legislation when he was asked to join a new committee called the Gambling Controls Committee, headed by Senator Clarence Farley.

"It is hard to realise that only a couple of years ago it was illegal to even post a football coupon. Every raffle held at fetes could have meant imprisonment for the organisers and Crown and Anchor played at gymkhanas was also outlawed. Because the 19th century legislation was so farcical everyone turned a blind eye to it. It was very much a case of the law being as ass. Even members of the honorary police used to break the law. Our job was to scrap the old legislation and start completely from square one against a backcloth of the 20th century."

The committee’s first report brought forward 23 recommendations. One of these was that a State lottery should be held. Some time later Deputy Cyril Tanguy, impressed by the success of a Battle of Flowers lottery and the lotteries of other countries, put forward a private member's bill charging the Gambling Control Committee to prepare plans for a State lottery for Jersey.

Stormy passage

The Bill had a stormy passage through the House but it won the day, although it was restricted to a monthly lottery. Deputy Smale believes that this is wrong.

"The more I see of the organisation and the more I realise the potential of the lottery the more I think the States were wrong to limit it to a monthly lottery. It means that many visitors cannot buy tickets because there are not enough and they lose the thrill of having the draw take place during their stay in the island. All the machinery is now geared up and we could increase our turnover another three times by holding them weekly."

He is more than proud of the fact that under his organisation the number of civil servants required to run the lottery at the moment is one. The lottery as it stands today has 20,000 tickets which sell through agents and sub-agents at 10s each. This gives a monthly revenue of £10,000 with prize money of £6,000. He believes that the first year will see a profit of nearly £47,000, but if it is made weekly he can see no reason why the figures attained by the Gibraltar Government should not be reached. This lottery has a total turnover of £12,500 per week, with two big lotteries at Christmas and on a national holiday boosting the takings to £702,500. The profit on this is £160,000 a year.

Deputy Smale has a down-to-earth and practical attitude towards gambling. As president of a control committee charged to stop unlicensed gambling and all the nasty byproducts that go with it, he fully realises the importance of his committee's work. On the other hand he knows that people enjoy gambling and that even if gambling was made illegal people would still do it.

"My attitude is that a large amount of money is spent on backing horses, on football pools, buying lottery tickets. Much of it is for fun rather than serious gambling. I think it much better if some of the profits of this money is channelled into really worthwhile projects.
"I hope to see the money we make from the lottery used to develop our social services and this can only benefit the community as a whole. The Victoria Cottage homes to look after the elderly people of Jersey or the development of Fort Regent are marvellous examples of the type of development that we could do. Remember that many of our projects in the past have been financed out of Lottery funds — the markets, the harbours and the building of Victoria Avenue to name just a few."

Special fund

He added that there need be no fear that the money from the lottery will disappear into the general revenues of the States and be lost for ever in public expenditure. Under the legislation a special fund has been set up to be administered by the States Treasurer and everything operates through this. Money in the fund will be "applied in such a manner for such purposes of public benefit as the States shall from time to time direct".

"That", he said with a smile "will tie the hands of any States member who wishes to have this money used with the general revenue."

What about a casino? Would Jersey ever have one?

"One of our recommendations was that Jersey should have a State controlled casino run along the lines of those in Cannes or San Remo. This was rejected by the States. But if a private member was to propose such a casino I would support him."

Deputy Smale comes from Welling in Kent and first came to Jersey in 1946, after his sister had married a Jersey resident. He worked in the hotel industry and in 1953 he became manager of the Metropole. He now directs the West Hill Hotel.

He is married with five children and has just bought a farmhouse which he is busily converting. He admits to finding little time for relaxation but when he has some he 'potters' either in the house or the garden.

Does he gamble? "Not much" he said with a smile. "I know the odds."

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