Starting price or SP bookmaking literally refers to taking bets at fixed odds, i.e. a fixed starting price, as opposed to the totalisator model of betting. This form of gambling was only legal in Australia for bookmakers operating on the course or racetrack, and so a large telephone based SP bookmaking industry started, leading to the term SP bookie becoming synonymous with a criminal bookmaker operating off-course in competition with the authorized on-course bookmakers and the totalisator (or tote). SP quickly became a large area of vice, intimately associated with police corruption and racetrack rigging. Several Royal Commissions investigated the practice, and there were many attempts to eradicate it. It is unclear the extent to which it still occurs.
Starting Price is also used as a UK colloquial term: “What’s the SP?” as a general “What’s happened?/where are we with this?/how are we doing?” enquiry from someone just arriving, as a derivation of the sense “At what odds are we betting on this race at which I’ve just arrived?”
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