What is a ‘Bag’?
The term ‘Bag’ can mean two quite different things in gambling. The first meaning is an English casino term for thousand, for example a five bag would equal 5,000. The second meaning of the word is an acronym in Greyhound racing. A bag or BAGS stands for Bookmakers’ Afternoon Greyhound Service. This is sometimes referred to as bag or BAGS for short.
The ‘Bag’ Explained
The word bag was first used as a term to describe a grand or £1,000 in the early 19th century. It comes from the extended phrase ‘bag of sand’ which is rhyming slang for a ‘grand’.
Cockney rhyming slang started in the East End of London in the 1800s and works by swapping a common word with a phrase of two or three words. The last word will rhyme with the original word. In this case, ‘bag of sand’ rhymes with ‘grand’. This phrase has been classified as a ‘classic’ term by linguistic experts, which means it is a traditional term, created in the 19th century.
Today people commonly drop the ‘of sand’ part of the phrase and simply use ‘bag’ instead to refer to a ‘grand’. A number of betting terms have originated from Cockney rhyming slang including phrases to describe the odds on horses such as ‘top of the head’ (9/4) or ‘wrist’ (5/4). In terms of greyhound racing, a bag or BAGS refers to the Bookmakers’ Afternoon Greyhound Service. This is a place which exists to provide meetings which are televised in the betting shops of the off-course bookmakers.
It was first formed in 1967 in the UK to provide a programme of greyhound meetings. Beforehand, meetings had taken place in the evenings. Today 18 racecourses hold BAGS races in the morning, afternoon and evenings, throughout the year and throughout the country. Typically they are not well attended, despite free entry to the track.