Even back in 2008, fifty pence was less than the price of a loaf of bread, or a pint of milk, but that was the amount staked by Fred Craggs, a fertiliser salesman from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, who would subsequently become the first ‘betting shop millionaire’. The day before his sixtieth birthday, in February, 2008, Craggs placed an eight-fold accumulator on horse races at Sandown Park, Nad Al Sheba, Warwick and Wolverhampton at his local William Hill betting shop. Fittingly, under the floodlights at Gosforth Park that evening, his eighth and final selection, A Dream Come True, won at 2/1 to land cumulative odds of nearly 2,800,000/1.
Craggs remained blissfully unaware of his good fortune until the following day, when he visited another William Hill betting shop in nearby Bedale. Having placed another five bets, each worth fifty pence, as was his custom, he asked staff to check his betting slip from the previous day. Craggs apparently visibly paled when informed that his total winnings were exactly £1,000,000 – subject to maximum payout rules, but nonetheless unprecedented in the history of British betting shops – but later said that he had experienced only a ‘dull sensation of excitement about the win’. William Hill spokesman David Hood was, thankfully, a little more upbeat, saying, ‘It is a staggering bet, and earns him a place in history as the world’s first betting shop millionaire. Even a scriptwriter couldn’t have dreamt this one up.’