Steede aims to get business on the front foot
Bookmaker Albert Steede has vowed to overcome the challenges posed by a testing business environment.
Mr Steede, a former teacher and Bermuda cricket captain, is the owner of Seahorses, the well-established betting shop on Queen Street, Hamilton, as well as Gametime bookmaking operations in St George’s and Somerset.
A third Gametime shop in Hamilton opened in 2009, but closed for good earlier this month, Mr Steede said, adding that it was always his plan to consolidate the two Hamilton shops.
“It made no sense to have two locations in Hamilton competing against themselves,” he explained. “It’s only a small segment of the community that enjoys sports betting, it’s not thousands. The shops were just competing against themselves. It didn’t make economic sense. Gametime customers have already started the transition to Seahorses.”
Seahorses was closed on Monday for a staff appreciation boat cruise, but is otherwise open for business, Mr Steede said. Aside from taking bets on horse racing and other sports, the Queen Street shop also runs a popular bingo on Wednesday and Sunday evenings hosted by comedian Nadanja Bailey.
The Somerset and St George’s Gametime shops are currently closed, but will reopen on Saturday August 3 in time for the UK football season, Mr Steede said. “We close every year at this time to give staff a break because once the football season starts, it’s seven days a week,” he said. “Closing gives staff a mental break, and with the shop lets us physically clean it up. We give the shops a new coat of paint, we refurbish for the start of the season, make any renovations that are needed.”
Mr Steede purchased Seahorses in 2016, and set about refurbishing the space. What was formerly an old-style gambling shop now has theatre-style seating for watching sports, and for playing bingo. Renovations that were estimated to take four months took a full year to complete, he said.
“Gone is the grimy and dingy environment,” Mr Steede says. “Now it’s bright and friendly, and attracts a different kind of clientele.”
Mr Steede said he paid the shop’s four full-time staff members for the entire time that the shop was closed. “I paid them every month because I promised them that I would,” he said. “I stuck to my promise, and paid them for the full year.”
That approach to life, he says, extends to his support of charities and of individuals who need a helping hand. “I do it every month, one way or another,” he said. “It’s my way of giving back. That’s my mantra, it’s how I live, just to help in any small way. It all adds up at the end of the day.”
Among the bingo games played at Seahorses, he said, is “Queen of hearts”. The game costs $5 to play, and the pot builds until there is a winner. The jackpot is currently more than $4,000.
“Whenever someone wins, they will get half the pot, and we will give half to charity,” Mr Steede said. “I am not taking any profit off that game. I ask the customers what charity they would like to support. They make suggestions, and we talk about it as a group. Some of my staff say ‘Albert, you give away too much’. But every little bit we give away, I know it’s helping.”
Seahorses is located in the Mechanics Building on the corner of Queen Street and Church Street. Bermuda Mechanics Beneficial Association, landlords for the building, have filed an application in the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court to evict Seahorses Ltd from that location due to non-payment of rent. The application, filed May 6, has yet to be heard by the Court.
Mr Steede, who acknowledges being months behind in rent, said he is confident that the matter will be resolved soon. “The people at Mechanics have been a wonderful group of people to work with,” he says. “They have been patient and understanding with me, knowing that I invested so much into the space. I am working with them. I give them a lot of credit because it could have gone a different way. It’s nothing that I can’t handle. I will be meeting with them soon to discuss it.
“Anything worthwhile has challenges. I just have to overcome that, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
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