I took this photo at Coolangatta in December last year of a circus that was appearing on the Queensland/New South Wales border at Tweed Heads. Ironically, if it wasn't so serious, a circus featuring horses, just like the mural on the side of that truck, is all set to unfold when Queensland and New South Wales have totally different betting limits on thoroughbred races from 1 September. Racing Queensland and other jurisdictions around Australia need to get mobile on the issue and follow the New South Wales lead - given the Australian Racing Board are asleep at the helm on the issue.
If you want to witness for yourself first hand just how remarkably stupid the current Australian racing landscape truly is Ė then just keep reading on. One can only stand back and shake the head in dismay at the impending disaster that is set to spring from the barriers on the first day of September in Australian thoroughbred racing. Most readers will find it hard to believe that allegedly intelligent racing administrators who are entrenched in the corridors of power throughout the length and breadth of this nation cannot adopt one simple and uniform Australia-wide set of rules for bookmakers, corporates and TABs to bet on the thoroughbred racing product. Obviously the possibility of everyone from each State or territory working harmoniously together to achieve a much needed and cohesive result for the betterment of the racing industry is as difficult as solving the Rubikís Cube blindfolded such that the end result is that as at today we are left with what Iíd call ďa maze of madnessĒ that simply defies belief. Let me assure you that the shemozzle that is about to unfold in just over 30 days, promises to become the greatest circus since Bullens last visited your town or city.
To set the scene, Racing New South Wales has introduced new minimum bet requirements for all entities betting on their thoroughbred product from 1 September 2014. ďAll entitiesĒ means exactly that Ė the corporates, all licensed sole trader bookmakers fielding anywhere throughout Australia on a New South Wales thoroughbred meeting, as well as all TABs across Australia.
Here are some of the rules that will relate to entities betting on New South Wales thoroughbred racing from 1/9/14:
5.7 Betting limits:
A) - the approval holder is obliged to lay the fixed odds displayed by any New South Wales thoroughbred race if demanded by the backer except that the approval holder is not compelled to lose on, or on any one fixed odds bet more than the betting limits below. For Australian wagering operators with net assessable turnover on New South Wales thoroughbred races greater than or equal to $5million:
Metropolitan thoroughbred races $2,000 the win $800 the place.
Non-metropolitan thoroughbred races $1,000 the win $400 the place.
For Australian wagering operators with net assessable turnover on New South Wales thoroughbred races of less than $5million on all New South Wales thoroughbred races must bet to lose $1,000 the win and $400 the place.
C) - the approval holder must not do any act, or refuse to do any act, to avoid complying with clause 5.7 (a) including but not limited to:
1- refusing to accept a fixed odds bet
2- closing a backerís account
3- refusing to open a backerís account
4- placing any restrictions on a backerís account
5- refusing to offer fixed odds to any backer when those fixed odds are displayed by the approval holder
So the New South Wales model is now set in concrete with no further discussion needing to be entered into and the five points above (numbered 1 to 5 inclusive) will be celebratory news for many punters around Australia who have for years been emailing complaints to websites like this one to have their say about how betting outlets have done the wrong thing by their supposed valued client.
To that end, Racing Queensland - and for that matter other governing racing bodies from around Australia - seem to be all cumulatively sitting around on their hands on the raising betting limits issue and are about a furlong behind New South Wales in introducing, then enforcing, some constructive improvements to improve the lot of angry punters and disillusioned bookmakers from other States.
The following is a transcript of a conversation between RadioTAB head racecaller David Fowler and Racing Queensland CEO Darren Condon from last Monday week 21 July. I put the undermentioned up on the website nine days ago and itís repeated below for those that missed reading it. The interview sparked plenty of debate as currently bookmakers betting on Brisbane metropolitan race meetings are only compelled to bet a punter to lose $500, which is pathetic in any fair personís assessment, as even the basic wage in Australia is currently $640.90 per week. The interview went like this:
David Fowler: Well just on an industry matter that will interest a lot of our listeners this morning because most of us seem to have a bet. Racing NSW recently I believe made an excellent decision looking at the way corporates and their clients and what they bet them to what limits and thereís been a major criticism that corporates cut down clients or bar clients and Racing NSW want to put the wheels in motion where corporates had to bet basically what you know on-course bookmakers or the TABs bet. Now is that something that Racing Queensland is looking at as well?
Darren Condon: From what perspective, ah, ah, obviously Racing NSW has gone down that path. Iím not convinced thatís the solution. Um, weíve, we've currently got a, a, very low, um, minimum bet that a bookmaker has to do (accept) on course. I think by and large a lot of the racing public these days are unaware of those rules, um, and yes I hear a lot about people not being able to get on, but what I see from our corporates is their turnover growing regularly, so thereís obviously lots of people still getting on and being able to have a bet and, um, Iím not convinced that the amounts weíre talking about are really the people who weíre concerned about, um, not being able to get set because the sort of, sort of dollar value you're talking isnít really big betting, um, by any standard. My view is at the moment, ah, I donít think that weíve got the right solution. Iíll be watching what happens in Racing NSW to see whether their solution works for them. Ah, but (it's) certainly something we need to make sure we can deliver on. Thereís nothing more frustrating than a cust, keen customer, going to any store and trying to buy something and being told he canít buy it and thatís, that's whatís happening with some of our corporates, thatís for sure.
David Fowler: So, so that, that $500 limit thatís in force on a Saturday at Eagle Farm and Doomben, is that going to stay?
Darren Condon: I donít see any change in, in the near future.
David Fowler: Fair enough. It has come in for some criticism I might say.
Darren Condon: Yeah ah I hear that, I do hear that but we havenít had one complaint that weíre aware of since itís been in of somebody not being able to get on, um, so we hear the criticism but I havenít actually heard an example of somebody who wasnít able to get set, um, and as I say Iím not totally convinced that many of the punters on course at Eagle Farm or Doomben are even aware of what the rule is.
The New South Wales betting limit approvals and rules show exactly how stupid the current thoroughbred industry betting landscape is in this country. Letís take last Saturdayís three eastern seaboard meetings of Doomben, Kensington and Caulfield as an example and letís assume the date of the three meetings is 1 September 2014 or after. A bookmaker fielding at the Doomben metropolitan meeting had to only lay a punter on to lose $500 on a horse racing at Doomben or Caulfield that afternoon. But now that exact same sole trader bookmaker - after 1 September - will have to bet a punter to lose $1,000 (as he wouldnít turnover $5million or more a year) on a horse racing at Kensington that same afternoon. So a horse racing at the Kensington track has to be laid for a minimum of $1,000 if thatís the punterís request but if the horse is racing at Doomben or Caulfield the horse must only be laid to lose $500 or half that amount. Whilst itís a fact of life that most bookmakers, say in the Brisbane ring, would accommodate the punter to win much more than $500, by having a higher set limit, the corporates are also then much more accountable to their client base.
Take the corporate bookmaker sitting in the Northern Territory. They must let the punter on to win $2,000 on any horse racing at the Kensington track but can pluck a figure out of thin air for the Doomben or Caulfield meetings and restrict the punter to having $5 each way, if they so desire under current rules, or moreover lack of rules.
If the bookie betting on the New South Wales Kensington meeting is fielding at say the non-TAB meeting in Queensland at St George last Saturday (1/9/14 for the purpose of the exercise) he must bet the punter to lose $1,000 on the horse racing at Kensington, but only $500 on the horse racing at any of Doomben, Caulfield or St George.
Go one step further and the corporate in the Northern Territory or the sole trader bookmaker working at Doomben, St George, or wherever around Australia where there was a race meeting, can lose their licence for refusing to take a bet from a punter to lose $2,000 (corporates) or $1,000 (majority of on course bookmakers) at the Kensington track, but authorities in other States seemingly donít value either the punter or the bookmaker highly enough in the general scheme of things to give the industry a uniform set of rules to work within, via simply ratifying the same legislation as New South Wales on the subject.
The current Queensland limit of $500 is in the opinion of most nothing but a total joke. It was stated at the time that Racing Queensland introduced the $500 limit against the wishes of the majority of bookmakers and without consultation with the Bookmakers Association and subsequently itís fair to say that that $500 limit has made bookmakers a laughing stock and infers that bookmakers operating in the State of Queensland simply arenít interested in letting punters on for what should be deemed to be ďa realistic amountĒ in 2014.
The Racing Queensland Board and the CEO, Darren Condon, along with other control bodies from around Australia have over one full calendar month from today, which is plenty of time, to bring their State into line with New South Wales and get some uniformity in this betting limit debate. The silly part is that if the Australian Racing Board would show some leadership, like their name infers, they could have instigated uniform measures across Australia and we wouldnít even be having this debate now. Is anyone home at the Australian Racing Board? Why the hell are they sitting on their hands and letting all this mayhem unfold before their eyes? They need to understand that ďitís better to have tried and failed than never to have triedĒ and doing nothing on important issues that are pivotal to the future of the thoroughbred industry is simply not an option.
But I must say that itís not all doom and gloom in racing in Queensland as there is at least one positive happening, the news of which I woke to this morning and that is that The Courier Mail in an article in todayís edition states that 74-year-old Kevin Seymour has resigned as Chairman of the Albion Park Harness Racing Club. Whilst from my experience you canít believe everything you read in that newspaper in respect of harness racing, which I might add I have exclusively taken them to task on before, if that story is true thatís certainly what Iíd call ďa good news storyĒ.
Sadly the Albion Park harness racing industry of today is merely a shell of what it was like in its halcyon days when the general public filled the joint and scores of bookmakers fielded there and Silks Restaurant was habitually booked out. Nowadays the place resembles Chernobyl about five minutes after the reactor blew and no one goes there. Thereís not a bookmaker in sight at most meetings. But that doesnít stop Kevin Seymour being the eternal optimist, as heís reported as saying in The Courier Mail article today that, ďTurnover is up and better horses are racing and there is more public confidence in the sportĒ. As far as Iím concerned the ďturnover is upĒ statement is very open-ended and required much more questioning from the investigative journalist. Exactly what ďturnover is upĒ? The turnover on Race 6 each Monday afternoon at Albion Park? The turnover on all Albion Park meetings as opposed to one month ago, one year ago, or one decade ago? The overall turnover on harness racing both at Albion Park and Redcliffe? The turnover at the Marburg non-TAB meetings?
I also find the ďthere is more confidence in the sportĒ statement of Seymourís interesting, as I would have reasonably thought that most punters that I talk to donít want to get involved in betting on what they deem are ďthe red hotsĒ and I feel that Kevin Seymour, who advised in the article that he was ďchairman on four occasionsĒ at Albion Park over his lifetime, has been unable to shake that ďred hotsĒ perception in the minds of punters, meaning that it will indeed be interesting to see if his successor can get rid of the negativity surrounding the sport from punters. In fact if you call a spade a spade and not a shovel like I do, I would happily suggest publicly that ďharness racing in Queensland has been dying on the vine for the last decade or two to the point where the once vibrant industry that had tracks dotted right along the Queensland coast as far north as Cairns and as far west as Toowoomba, nowadays has been decimated to the point whereby it only has three current functional tracks, namely Albion Park, Redcliffe and Marburg and Marburg in a non-TAB trackĒ. But then again, I guess the band did keep playing as the Titanic sank, so in racing itís best to remain positive at all times.
Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au thereís the first of two montages of photos from Doomben last Saturday. On www.sydneyracing.com.au thereís a breeding story, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Victorian racing is perused.