2017 Betting Shop Manager of the Year Ron Hearn Q&A

The SIS/Racing Post Betting Shop Manager of the Year is in full swing with 112 nominations put forward, 42 of which came from independents.

Ron Hearn was a champion from the independent bookmakers JenningsBet. Managing Director at JenningsBet Greg Knight was proud of the achievement, he said: ” It means an awful lot to the company because we have got a lot of experienced managers of 20 years plus and it is a recognition for them and also the independent sector.”

Ron Hearn, the current Betting Shop Manager of the Year has recently arrived back from his trip in Singapore, but before he went we caught up with him for a coffee and a chat about his experiences so far.

How did you find the Betting Shop Manager of the Year competition from start to finish?

I found the whole competition fantastic! Once I got to the final 48 I felt so happy that I had made a good start in the competition. The next stage involved the mystery shopper, I still have no idea who it was but I guess I made a positive impression on them. I do my best to give a warm welcome to all of my customers and make them a cup of tea so they all feel special. The announcement that I had made the final 24 came as a further shock, but it was very exciting and meant I was then able to go to Doncaster to meet the judges and the other 23 finalists. Doncaster was a real highlight and an experience I will cherish.

It was terrific to meet them all, hearing about them and their shops and how each had different needs and challenges. I’m still in touch with a few of the finalists as well as the winner of 2016 Robert Mabbet. The judging was a surreal experience, having dinner with Brough Scott who I grew up watching was quite something.  It was great to be able to stand in the parade ring during the Racing Post Trophy race at Doncaster, I hadn’t been that up and close before to all the action. When the final 8 was announced it was very surreal to see my face up on the screen.

The final itself was another day that will live long in my memory, being hosted at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, attending was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Regardless of winning or not, it was such an experience. When I was announced the 2017 winner of Betting Shop Manager of the Year, I went into complete shock for a moment, I received a standing ovation and everyone who was anyone wanted to speak to me!

It sounds like you’ve been busy on the events circuit, have there been any highlights?

There have been many, but my favourite event so far was Cheltenham. We were in the Racing Post box which I thoroughly enjoyed and met a few of my racing idols.  This competition has helped me do things I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do. So far, I have been to the SIS box at Ascot, the GBGB awards and presented on RPGTV, attended ICE 2018, the Golden Jacket final, Cheltenham and the Greyhound Derby.

What advice would you give to those who have entered this year?

Grab every opportunity with both hands during the competition. It’s something I wasn’t thinking of entering until my area manager put me forward for it, and I’m am so thankful he did, as I have experienced things I would have never been able to before the competition. The last 6 months have been life changing. I have met my idols in the racing world, presented the Racing Post Juvenile trophy at Sheffield, and will be going on a once in a lifetime trip to Singapore.

Find out more about Ron’s time in Singapore.

How much of your life has changed since the competition?

I’ve received a fantastic response from the industry and people who have followed the story in the Racing Post, who pop in to say hello and congratulate me! It’s a bit of a surreal feeling to be a betting shop manager one day and then the next day I’m a special guest of the Racing Post at one of the industry’s biggest exhibitions ‘ICE Totally Gaming’.

Top tips for being a high street betting shop manager in today’s climate

Make your customers your number 1 focus always. Your customer should be treated the way you would like to be treated. If they’re struggling or need advice then go into the shop and help them, I feel it’s important to engage with them on a personal level and I like to get on first name terms to build a good rapport with my customers. I do genuinely care for my customers and try to give them advice in terms of gambling sensibly, but also being able to provide over 40 years of industry knowledge.

How do you think your shop will be affected by the new FOBT legislation?

Like most people, I’m sitting here a little tense and nervous about the effects. I’ve spoken to a few of my regular customers, and they feel as if they’re being punished for a small minorities’ lack of self-control. Gambling problems have always been a thing, it’s not because of the FOBTS, let’s not forget in 1957 Gamblers Anonymous was founded. I do believe in the betting shops we monitor them in here, they are treated as family. We have a social responsibility for our customers in our shops. The cut in FOBT stakes won’t bring an end to problem gambling, they will gamble elsewhere and maybe move to other platforms where it may be harder to monitor their activity.

After speaking to some of our regular customers, some have said they won’t come in again after the legislation comes in. Many that play the machines are non-sports bettors so aren’t interested in the other content we can offer them. Although I would like to think that I could keep my customers from the relationship I have with them and the service they receive when they are here. It’s going to be a challenging time for us, but I do think with the right staff and attention to detail in the service we provide we will pull through this.

Any last words?

I’m really looking forward to meeting this year’s contestants, if they want to hear about the year I’ve had, then they better sit down in a comfy seat.