It’s noteworthy, and very topical, that today’s headlines are dominated by the world’s two biggest religions, Christianity and Islam, which both got their start from words that came down from on high – with the help of Moses and the angel Gabriel respectively. Hence the preparation and wide publication of the Bible and the Koran.
The trouble is that no-one is sure exactly what they mean to say. Different interpretations are argued, different branches have developed, and battles are ruinous and ongoing. Over time, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation and the Jihads have confused the public mightily, and done considerable damage to millions of people. More recently, even Sir Humphrey Appleby, talking about the appointment of a bishop, advised Jim Hacker that a solid belief in God was an optional extra. Such is the world we live in.
But is greyhound racing any different?
The word arrived from state governments about 60 years ago that this was the way to run things. Privateers were cast out of the temple and honest amateurs picked to control operations. And it has been so ever since, virtually according to the same book.
Over the past couple of years, the word came down from administrators in NSW, with some help from WA, that Ozchase would provide all things good and wonderful. In reality, that meant that it would be cheaper for everyone to keep their books, and so you should join in.
Of course, the principles are marvellous – greater efficiency, easy references, more consistency, fewer errors in transmission and less need to go to the money lenders. Consequently, bean counters in Tasmania, SA, the ACT and Queensland have joined with NSW and WA in applauding the idea.
Ozchase is now working everywhere except in Victoria, where the local heathens decided they liked what they already had and said no thanks.
The problem now is that while bottom lines may be improved, Ozchase threw the baby out with the bathwater. With the cheaper costs came a disregard for the people who supply the means to fix those bottom lines – the customers. For real racing information – mainly form and race results – Ozchase stinks. Information is restricted and/or laborious to access and is never supplied in data-friendly formats. It deliberately makes life harder for punters, apparently because Ozchase (which means GRNSW) wants to keep secret as much as possible.
This is a major, although not the only, factor which has caused those same customers to either disappear or be downgraded to mug believers. Accept the word or be excommunicated is today’s mantra. Do not query the good book lest you be censored out of existence. All of which makes progress and innovation hard to bring about.
It is also a reason why the infidels in Victoria will continue to thrive (relatively) as they have been doing for the last decade or more. It is extraordinary that the old-timer thinkers in NSW and elsewhere cannot see what they have done and where they are heading – the downturns are everywhere to be seen.
For a few pieces of silver (temporary only) they are risking the industry’s future by throwing the customers to the lions.
In any case, according to census figures, the biggest growth in the West today is not in believer numbers but in the number of atheists.
QUEENSLAND – HELP FROM ABOVE
Christmas will arrive early this year for Queensland greyhounds. Following the new agreement with Tattsbet standard prize money at Albion Park’s main meeting on Thursdays will rise by 54% to $7,500. This now compares favourably with Wentworth Park in Sydney ($6,750) and Melbourne ($7,180). Prize money at other venues will also be increasing nicely.
So far, so good.
What we don’t know yet is how Queensland has set up its budget and what other improvements it has in mind. There are pressing needs.
1. The government has provided capital to create the new Logan complex to the south of Brisbane but
not up-to-date detail about the design of the track. For example, previous drafts showed it included a bend start for middle distance races. (Despite no official announcement, rumours abound that work has already started. Why the secret?)
2. The fate of Albion Park and Ipswich operations is unknown. Both those tracks are sub-standard for purely technical reasons which need attention. Bend starts and poor turns badly need fixing.
3. Never mind the new agreement; will TattsBet – which is currently unable to maintain its tote turnover – continue to provide the cash from year to year?
4. How will Racing Queensland encourage more local patronage in future years when better alternatives are available in other states with bigger betting pools, all easily accessed via a phone or the internet? So far the new administration has done nothing to promote fresh business.
5. The increased prize money will certainly help but will it be enough to attract more and better quality dogs? Possibly, but it might need serious promotion.
In short, it’s not just the cash but the package to be offered to customers that will be the key to prosperity. That package has to include better fields, better tracks and better betting options. Leave out any one of those and progress will be limited.
By the way, all this information is being put out by the chairman of Racing Queensland, Kevin Dixon. Not a word has been heard from the greyhound board – on this or any other subject. Such is the pecking order.
GREYHOUNDS AUSTRALASIA, PLEASE NOTE
Never short of a word, former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, at a function in Melbourne, called for a revamp of the Australian Racing Board, which he described as “useless”. He says it is “imperative that the national racing board comprises people who are independent of racing”.
“I would like to see people who are genuinely independent and not have a background in racing,” he said.
“You need a small, independent board that can bring best practices together to understand that this industry is just not about racing, but it is about setting standard. It’s about ensuring people are fairly treated.”
Nor was he complimentary about online bookmakers, titling them as “a cancer” on the industry.
“And, Kennett admitted that if he could have foreseen what he says is the damage corporate bookmakers are causing then he would not have privatised the Victorian TAB more than 20 years ago. Kennett said if corporate bookmakers were allowed to exercise their will as they currently do, the racing industry would not exist in five years.”
A bit extreme, perhaps, but understandable. However, Kennett might have pondered more about the way in which online bookmakers are allowed to operate, rather than their very existence. After all, the betting sector was nearly moribund before their injection into the system. And their formation was prompted only by the negative way in which the ARB and the major clubs treated traditional bookmakers, and for no other reason.