Graham Sharpe, the longtime official spokesman for British sportsbook chain William Hill, has been fired after 45 years with the company.
Sharpe, 66, confirmed to Gambling 911 in an exclusive interview Wednesday that he was let go by the London-based firm earlier this month.
The company has walk-in sportsbooks throughout the United Kingdom as well as an online prescence.
"It all happened rather quickly," Sharpe told Gambling 911. "On May 1, my 45-year, one-month, three-day career at William Hill was over."
He said he was told that his job had become "a redundancy."
He and the company then worked out a severance plan, which allows the affable Brit to continue to be associated with the bookmaker on a freelance basis.
Sharpe started his career with William Hill in 1972 as a 21-year-old boardman, someone who writes betting odds for the public on a chalk board inside a Will Hill book.
He worked his way up in the company, holding various jobs, including bet-payer and bet shop manager, and eventually became the official company spokesman in the mid 1970s.
Sportsbooks in the U.K. then had long taken wagers on sporting events, but Sharpe, whose duties included marketing, became one of the early pioneers of so-called novelty betting, which included betting on entertainment, political and other non-sports events.
In 1980, he got William Hill to take wagers on the famous "Who shot J.R.?" episode of the hit American primetime television soap opera "Dallas."
(Nevada sportsbooks weren't permitted to accept such bets.)
The move got the book worldwide attention as bettors could wager on which character on the show had fired the possibly-fatal gunshot at show villain J.R. Ewing, played by Larry Hagman, in the show's cliff-hanger final episode of the season (the shooter was Kristin, J.R.'s sister-in-law, played by crooner Bing Crosby's daughter, Mary).
Among the other famous wagers Sharpe came up with at William Hill over the years were allowing a man to bet at 1,000-1 odds that he would be struck by lightning (he wasn't) and permitting a terminally ill cancer patient to wager on how long he would live (he survived for two years).
In 1976, during a long drought in London, Sharpe engineered a wager whereby the public could bet on what day it would finally rain.
A few years later, during a long spell of daily rain, Sharpe let bettors wager on when the next rainless day would be.
Under Sharpe's direction, William Hill was one of the first books to offer wagering on elections in the U.K., U.S. and elsewhere.
The book was also a pioneer in offering bets on major entertainment events, such as the Academy Awards.
Sharpe was a constant prescence in British and international media, often commenting on betting patterns related to current events.
Analyzing the betting at Will Hill, he correctly predicted that "Brexit"--the British exit from the European Union--would be approved by voters in England.
He was also known in the U.S. for his many TV appearances on the Fox News Channel and elsehwere.
But now, a long and glorious career in sports betting that has spanned nearly a half-century, has come to an end.
But shed no tears for Graham Sharpe--he won't starve.
He is also a noted author in England and will continue with William Hill on a limited freelance basis, as well as taking on other undertakings.
"I am happy to consider freelance commissions for political betting stories and will continue my book-writing career," Sharpe said. "I have written 30 books and counting.
"And I am retaining an interest in William Hill by acting as a freelance consultant for the event I co-created for the company, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, now the world’s most prestigious and valuable such award, this year worth £29,000 to the winner."
The award isn't for a sportsbook, it goes to the author of the year's best book about sports, as declared by Sharpe and William Hill.
By Tom Somach
Gambling 911 Staff Writer