Forget optimism and pessimism, if one is simply a realist as I am, it’s very easy to stand back and smell the roses and accept that the way things are headed, over the next 10 or 20 years the racing industry Australia-wide faces a herculean task to prosper. Like prostitution, the racing industry will always survive the annals of time, but “surviving” and “prospering” are two totally different entities.

Why do I suggest that the racing industry is what I’d call “rooted” in the long term? Well take a walk beside me over the next two days in my exclusive two-part story and I‘ll outline the various forks in the long, often rough and winding racing road that will all work against the racing industry prospering. Some will shock readers as I’m quite sure many in the industry have no idea as to how bleak the future of the racing industry is at today.

Let’s start with what most would deem the most pivotal aspect of the racing industry, namely how it gets the majority of its funding to pay prizemoney to participants, which obviously allows those participants to receive some remuneration for monies previously expended to buy the equine or canine athlete and have it trained. So first and foremost the three codes of the racing industry are virtually totally reliant on TAB turnover to survive in the first instance and as an extension of that process, the industry also relies primarily on TAB turnover continually increasing to allow it to prosper into the future. It’s hardly a State secret that current TAB holds are only keeping to industry treading water – in survival mode. One would be entitled to be highly sceptical about any “prosper into the future” possibility as significant increases in TAB turnover across the three codes of racing are not being seen. If anything, TAB turnover is showing a downward trend on the racing product. And that “downward trend” is seemingly going to continue well into the distant future, as the quinella of TABs and the racing industry have proven in the past to be fairly useless at coming up with new and exciting products that punters would want to embrace and get involved with to lift turnover.

Take Queensland for instance – we have Ubet as the home TAB in each of Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Then we have Racing Queensland, the governing body of the three codes which is being run by an Interim CEO. Before the “Interim CEO” took control following a State election after the newly appointed Labor Party sacked all the racing Boards, we had Kevin Dixon and his All Codes Board calling the shots. None of Ubet, the Interim CEO Ian Hall, or the All Codes Board led by Kevin Dixon could come up with any new product in association with Ubet that could provide a significant stimulus to TAB turnover. Nevertheless Racing Queensland under Kevin Dixon jumped in the sack with then Tattsbet. She’s already changed her name to Ubet as she’s got a bit of history, so changing her name regularly may fool some, but it won’t fool many. She’s the same old sheila that doesn’t even look attractive to me now, so God knows what impact gravity will have on her ageing exterior over the next 30 years. I’ll take any amount of even money that it won’t be pretty. Think it through and it was a masterstroke by Dixon and his All Codes Board to decide on a 30-year term, as it’s a no brainer to conclude that most of us will be dead before the expiry of the marriage vows, which is a real shame as we’ll go to our maker without knowing the full extent of the 30-year relationship. Will they all live happily ever after – or will there be a divorce at some point?

In recent times Ubet punters are supposed to get all fuzzy over garbage like a Jockeys Challenge or the latest brainwave which involves a “Ubet Super Six Trainer Series” across six days of Brisbane Winter Carnival racing. What a lot of rot. Who cares about such rubbish? These new bet types, implemented to satisfy a specific Carnival, are totally useless to the long-term benefit of the racing industry.

Put simply TABs across Australia need to come up with some new and innovative bet types that would be successful in doing their bit to significantly increase turnover. TABs need to get people out in the field answering questionnaires, so as to find out what punters want. Big and successful businesses like Dominos get their clients to tell them what sort of pizzas they think would improve their sales. So now a base of people earn a regular income from recipes that they’ve thought up and passed on to Dominos, which that entity has subsequently adopted new pizzas from. There’s no difference with TABs. They need to get out into the public arena and find out what their customers want and/or what new bet types they would part with additional monies to bet on.

I’ve raised the point here before on numerous occasions that TABs need to have secret shoppers out in the marketplace checking on the service and facilities of not only their own TABs, but also Pubtab outlets at pubs and clubs to see what the service is like. I regularly walk into pubs and clubs In Queensland that have pathetic TAB service. Obviously no one from Ubet bothers going out and doing random checks on entities selling their product? I’ve also written up here for years that it should be a pre-requisite that all outlets selling the TAB product need to have both Sky Channel 1 and Sky Channel 2 on display. How can any entity like say Ubet look industry players in the eye and say “we are doing everything possible to maximise TAB turnover for the racing industry” when big clubs with 300-odd poker machines don’t have Sky Channel 2 at the venue.

And punters have had a gutful of not being given constructive information from TABs in respect of fixed odds betting. Until a full explanation of fixed odds betting is provided by TABs with how the industry is paid for bets placed in fixed odds markets, the whole structure of the operation of TABs is deemed by most to be little more than a joke.

What is the return to the racing industry for fixed odds bets? How much lower is the take from fixed odds betting in comparison to pari-mutuel betting? Why aren’t the figures for fixed odds pools publicly available on each race, the same as pari-mutuel pools are made publicly available? Is it correct that if fixed odds operators sustain big losses on a day like 2016 Magic Millions day, that the return to the racing industry is zero? And these are all valid questions as it’s fair to assume that some of these fixed odds markets are huge. Last Saturday morning at 7.30am on RadioTAB, listeners were advised by the radio station anchor at the time, Steve Hewlett, that in the Randwick Guineas being run later that day that the favourite Press Statement was already holding $66,000 (or some similar amount) in fixed odds win bets. Now if that $66,000 is in the pari-mutuel win pool we have a pretty fair idea what the take is out of that particular win pool. What is it if Ubet lose on the Randwick Guineas fixed odds market? Why is TAB fixed odds betting information all smoke and mirrors? Until all the information on the product is explained fully in layman’s terms and made public, punters and the industry-at-large will talk about it in a negative way.

“Mainstream media” would have the resources and the contacts to bring all the facts out into the open but they obviously don’t want to get involved and would rather “roll over” on any hard story like that, as the TABs are paying for the Form Guides to go into newspapers and the TABs are paying out a fortune for big advertisements in the newspapers, so who wants to rock any boats? No one that I can see. So the industry-at-large is treated as mushrooms and if you treat people as mushrooms it’s simply not good business acumen.

And talking of newspapers they seemingly go out of their way to help the decline of the racing industry. So it’s not ancient history, I researched the sporting stories in yesterday’s The Courier Mail, which is sadly the sole State-wide newspaper in Queensland. The Courier Mail had nine full pages of sports stories, from Pages 48 to 56 inclusive. In these “nine full pages of sports stories” there were no fewer than 24 (in words so there’s no confusion here that’s twenty four) stories in total. Here is a list of all the sports that had stories written on them in The Courier Mail of Tuesday 8/3/16.



Thoroughbred racing


Harness racing


Greyhound racing




Rugby Union














NFL – Super Bowl


Australian Soccer


International Soccer







So to be balanced there’s certainly a good cross-section of sporting stories there, but obviously no highly paid journalist can pen a racing story from any of the three codes. Oh and I should have mentioned that in those “9 pages” of sports stories, they also fitted in results for Cricket, Ice Hockey, Basketball, Bowls and Tennis.


Do you start to see why racing is “rooted” in the long term as far as I’m concerned? We have State-wide newspapers that can’t write one paragraph on what many of the general public perceive is a at best a “tainted” industry. They’d rather write a story on a Super Bowl game in America than a racing story that’s happening under our nose. Things are that bad in mainstream media that to get a story written on their code in Queensland a business has to buy some space so that that industry can get some of its news in the paper. And as for greyhound racing well we can get greyhounds like Fernando Bale and Dyna Double One winning in excess of a million dollars but they cannot get so much as one paragraph about their momentous feats in The Courier Mail.


Tomorrow I’ll look at why Sydney thoroughbred racing will continue to have very little punting appeal well into the future, welfare issues that will haunt the three codes from this day forth, stewards being a law unto themselves and making numerous mistakes along the way yet in reality they have limited powers in modern day racing, country racing woes that will shock and why TAB turnover has no option but to decline in the long term.

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