Leading bookmaker

Born: July 2, 1928;

Died: November 7, 2019

NORMAN Miller, who has died aged 91, was a leading Scottish bookmaker and former chairman of the National Association of Bookmakers.

Through his leadership of Scottish and later UK bookmaking interests in the 1980s and 90s, Mr Miller placed Scotland at the heart of national decision making on gambling policy. Together with Fife bookmaker Alfie Bruce, he pushed for Sunday racing to be permitted, established bookies' rights to buy and sell their racecourse pitches and ensured Scotland's voice dominated the national discourse on gambling.

He was born in 1928 to Margaret and Harry Miller, one of Scotland's best known bookmakers in the post-war period, described by racing pundit Lord Oaksey in his autobiography as "the grand old man of Scottish betting". Norman took over Harry's Glasgow-based business in the 1960s with 27 chalk and sawdust betting shops across the west of Scotland, taking punts from over 100 racing pitches. His was a familiar voice to race-goers, booming "five to four the field" across the betting rings and he was fully fluent in the bookies' coded sign language known as "tic tac". Norman maintained an on-course presence on all Scottish tracks, including No1 pitches at Hamilton, Kelso and Perth up until his retirement in 2007 at the age of 79.

During the Second World War, Norman was evacuated from Glasgow to Castle Douglas in Galloway which he recalled as some of his happiest childhood days. He was proud of his post-war national service in the RAF where he flew de Havilland Gypsy Moths at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. He read mathematics, physics and astronomy at Glasgow University and throughout his life was passionate about sport where he was active in boxing, ski-ing, waterski-ing and golf.

Norman owned a string of race horses in the 1950s, stabled with leading trainer Ted Smyth at Epsom and in the following decade he briefly ventured into managing the Broadway Bingo in Prestwick. But betting was to be the focus of his life. He had fond recollections of the "great illegal days" before off-course betting was legalised in 1960, when there were bookies on every street corner in Glasgow.

From the 1970s, he became closely involved in the politics of bookmaking and worked to promote and protect bookies' interests - challenging the stereotype of bookies simply being out for themselves. His lasting achievement was the landmark decision that enabled bookies to buy and sell their on-course pitches - a move that involved years of negotiations with Parliament, the Race Course Association, Jockey Club and Horseracing Levy Board.

Norman was president of both the Scottish Bookmakers Protection Association and Starting Price Association for many years and went to lead the national Bookmaker's Protection Association; he was also chair of National Racecourse Betting Offices and in the 1990s chair of National Association of Bookmakers.

He was immersed in the world of independent bookmaking when the industry was at its height and which is now retreating into history. He was widely quoted in Professor Carl Chinn's 1991 book Bookmaking and the British Working Class and was betting advisor to Scottish Television's 1988 drama series Bookie starring Maurice Roeves and John Hannah. When challenged on the ethics of gambling he would say, "People will always want to take a gamble, I want to ensure they bet with a decent feller."

Loyal, good humoured with great mathematical abilities, Norman Miller's greatest luck lay in his 65-year marriage to his beloved wife Anne, from whose loss in 2017 he did not recover. He is survived by their five children, Iain, Harry, Keith, Dianne and Andrew.