All bets off for Lynette

JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 12:21 05/12/2013
Southland Times photo
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
North Invercargill TAB customer services representative Lynette Neilson retires tomorrow after 34 years' service.

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New bar staff at the Northern Tavern in the 1970s and 80s soon found out who the punters were among their customers.

Back then, the tavern and the North Invercargill TAB were adjacent.

If tavern patrons left drinks unattended for too long while putting bets on, they ran the risk of having their beverages tipped out and their drinking area cleaned for other customers.

Bar staff presumed the patrons weren't returning.

That is one of the memories Lynette Neilson has from 34 years of working at the North Invercargill TAB. Mrs Neilson retires tomorrow.

The TAB moved into the tavern in 1992. Mrs Neilson started work for the North Invercargill TAB in 1979 after replying to an advertisement. It was for Saturday work only but slowly grew to 34 hours a week.

For the past 18 months she has worked 26 hours a week, spread over five days.

Her first job at the TAB, in 1979, was collating bets and phoning totals through to the main Invercargill branch.

"Back then you couldn't collect [winnings] till the next day," Mrs Neilson said.

Bets also had to be placed 50 minutes or longer before races started and winning tickets could only be cashed in at the TAB they were bought from.

Most of Mrs Neilson's time at the TAB has been spent processing bets and paying out dividends. Some of her biggest payouts include $15,000 and $10,000.

The North Invercargill TAB was not only a betting agency, she said.

"It was a meeting place, a part of people's lives."

Mrs Neilson has seen three generations of punters.

"I can remember them as a little toddler coming in with their father and now they are coming in with their family."

A losing bet was not the only thing that got people uptight.

Mrs Neilson remembers an altercation about 10 years ago between two men, one accusing the other of having an affair with his wife.

Mrs Neilson is looking forward to not having to work during the busy Christmas and New Year racing period. It will be the first Christmas she has not worked in 35 years. Retirement will also allow her more time to play golf.

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- The Southland Times

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