William Stanley Waterhouse (22 January 1922 – 22 November 2019) was an Australian bookmaker, businessman and barrister. Waterhouse was also Tonga's honorary Consul-General in Australia.[1]

Bill Waterhouse
William Stanley Waterhouse

(1922-01-22)22 January 1922
Died22 November 2019(2019-11-22) (aged 97)
EducationNorth Sydney Boys High School
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
ChildrenRobbie Waterhouse

Early years and backgroundEdit

Bill Waterhouse was educated at Greenwood Primary School and North Sydney Boys High. He completed an Arts/Law degree at Sydney University in 1948.

Bookmaking careerEdit

He had worked as a bookmaker’s clerk since 1938 with his father, who was first licensed as a bookmaker in 1898. Waterhouse became a barrister in 1948 but took leave of absence in 1954 after the sudden death of his brother and partner, Charles, and never returned, making bookmaking his full-time career. He worked his way on to the 'rails' (the Australian higher-class, higher-stake betting ring at a racetrack, as compared to bookmakers of the 'paddock'), and rose to be reputed the world’s biggest bookmaker and gambler in 1968.[2][self-published source]

He engaged in betting duels with giant punters such as Frank Duval (Hong Kong Tiger), Filipe Ismael (The Filipino Fireball) and Ray Hopkins.[3][self-published source] A man of large stature, he was dubbed 'Big Bill' and 'king of the bookies', remaining at the top for over 20 years. Waterhouse often turned over more than the tote.[2][self-published source]

As the high-profile patriarch of the Waterhouse racing dynasty, he ran his own racing newspaper The Referee and later wrote his own regular newspaper column for The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and the Sun. Media coverage of him included articles in The Bulletin, the former National Times, The Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend and in TV specials such as A Big Country and an interview by David Frost.[2][self-published source]

Waterhouse represented the Sydney betting ring in Melbourne for a decade from 1959 and also was the first bookmaker to represent Australia at Royal Ascot and other leading English courses in 1967–1968.[2][self-published source] In 1968, the Victoria Racing Club changed its rules to disallow bookmakers operating in other states fielding on-course bets in Victoria, initiated in part as a result of allegations against Waterhouse that he was taking illegal off-course bets, subsequently dismissed by a Magistrate.[4]

Waterhouse was cleared of rumours surrounding the doping of Melbourne Cup co-favourite, Big Philou in 1969, when it was shown by Australian Jockey Club (AJC) officials he was not working on the race, by then being a Sydney bookmaker and did not stand to lose on Big Philou in the doubles business run by his staff.[2][self-published source]

Waterhouse was the father of bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse, and the father-in-law of horse trainer Gai Waterhouse. In 1984 Waterhouse and his son Robbie lost their bookmakers’ licenses when it was alleged they had ‘prior knowledge’ of the Fine Cotton ring-in[5] and the AJC revoked their licenses, before waiting for the results of the Queensland police inquiry into the ring-in. However, it was never alleged they had any involvement in the actual ring-in.[2][self-published source] Waterhouse always maintained his innocence.

He was reinstated as a bookmaker in 2002 at 80 years of age when he announced he was coming back to train his grandson, Tom Waterhouse, as the fourth-generation Waterhouse bookmaker. They became Australia’s largest on-course bookmakers in 2007 and 2008.[2][self-published source]

In 2013, Waterhouse expressed his regret over the public acrimony between Gai Waterhouse, Tom Waterhouse, and John Singleton, as a result of the More Joyous affair.[6]

Interests outside bookmakingEdit

Waterhouse was also a successful commercial and residential property developer and hotelier, building the first strata-titled home unit development in New South Wales and the top hotel licence in Australia in the 1960s.[2][self-published source]

Other ventures have included mining licences and international betting shops.[2][self-published source]

His diplomatic post of Honorary Consul-General for the Kingdom of Tonga arose from a friendship at Sydney University's Law School with the young heir to the throne of Tonga.[1] He has received several awards from Tonga including the Grand Cross of Queen Salote, from King George Tupou V in 2009.[2][self-published source]

Waterhouse wrote his autobiography, What Are The Odds? which was published by Random House in 2009 and a new edition published in 2010. It was sold out in both hardcover and paperback.[2][self-published source]


  1. ^ a b Van Fossen, Anthony (2006). "A New Howard Hughes: John Meier, Entrepreneurship, and the International Political Economy of the Bank of the South Pacific (Ivan Molloy and Ron Reavall, eds.)" (PDF). The Eye of the Cyclone Book 2: Governance and Stability in the Pacific. Noosa Heads, Queensland: The University of the Sunshine Coast and Rock Mountain Publishing. 2: 9–10. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Waterhouse, Bill (2009). What Are the Odds? The Bill Waterhouse Story (hardback). North Sydney: Knoff. p. 519. ISBN 978-1-74166-630-4.[self-published source]
  3. ^ Waterhouse, Bill (29 July 2005). "Gambling man Waterhouse happy to stick to the rails". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 May 2013.[self-published source]
  4. ^ Reed, Ron (3 November 2008). "Bill Waterhouse no better mentor for bookie". Herald Sun. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  5. ^ Davis, Glenn (15 August 2004). "Remembering Fine Cotton". Racing and Sports. AAP.
  6. ^ Thomas, Ray (4 May 2013). "Bill Waterhouse breaks his silence on the spat between Gai Waterhouse and John Singleton". The Sunday Telegraph. Australia. Retrieved 16 May 2013.

Further readingEdit