Bill Waterhouse, the patriarch of Australia’s most famous bookmaking dynasty, has died age 97.
His son Robbie, who is married to top horse trainer Gai, posted the news on Twitter this morning.
“He left us peacefully with his family by his side,” he said.
“He was in great spirits till the end.”
Chief executive of Racing NSW, Peter V’landys remembered Waterhouse as “charming and charismatic”.
“He was both fearless and controversial and added atmosphere and colour to any betting ring,” he said.
Waterhouse went to school at North Sydney Boys High and studied law at the University of Sydney.
He worked as a barrister before becoming a full-time bookmaker in the mid-1950s.
Robbie followed him into the industry, as did grandson Tom, who also carved out a reputation as one of the most high-profile betting figures in racing.
Waterhouse was known for his bold gambling — he reportedly lost $1 million in a day in 1968.
In 1984, Waterhouse and his son were stripped of their bookmaking licences when the Australian Jockey Club alleged they had prior knowledge of the Fine Cotton “ring-in” scandal.
It was alleged that a scam had taken place where the substituted horse was a different colour and was dyed with hair colouring and painted with white paint on its legs.
Stewards at Eagle Farm launched an immediate investigation after the race, which the ring-in won before being disqualified.
Waterhouse maintained his innocence and in 2002 had his bookmaking licence reinstated in order to train Tom in the business.
Waterhouse retired in 2010.
Australian Turf Club Chief Executive Jamie Barkley described Waterhouse as a “towering figure in the betting rings of Sydney racecourses for several decades”.
“He was amongst the biggest and most competitive in his trade of anywhere in the world during a halcyon period of on-course bookmaking.”