More Cash But On A Fragile Basis

Racing authorities are putting on a brave face but the underlying movements in profitability are mixed, to say the least. Fixed Odds business from online bookies and the two big totes is still on the increase but racing authorities lose on the deal as they generate smaller commissions than the conventional TAB wagering that they replaced.

Queensland greyhound turnover went up by 18.8% in 2013/14 but only because it ran 34 more TAB meetings. A decline of 2.23% in all Tattsbet tote betting was saved from a worse result only by Fixed Odds volume from all sources rising by 17.3% to now comprise 32.8% of all wagering. That last figure is itself higher than in other states which probably indicates dissatisfaction with what the tote offers.

Nevertheless, things may improve now that the new 30-year deal with Tattsbet has generated a big increase in prize money. The key there will be whether Tattsbet itself – in the long term – is capable of building up its traditional business and can afford to pay up. In recent years it has been going in the opposite direction, something that might be reversed only if governments create a national betting pool.

Results in Victoria were not a lot different. Betting turnover went up by 3.1% but that included a flat performance for the two big city clubs and a huge rise in Ballarat meetings due to a comparison with a previous year when track reconstruction was taking place. Fixed Odds business doubled from the previous year. Racefield fees now makes up just on 20% of GRV income.

Overall, there was a rise of 7.4% in the number of Victorian meetings (based on individual club figures) or a bit less if you count coursing meetings. That’s where the extra cash came from. The good news is that much of that has been applied to promotion and track improvements as well as to IT enhancements.

All this continues a trend dating from 2010 (or even before) of filling holes in the TAB calendar and simply creating an extra meeting here and there. On average, there is no natural growth in patronage on a like for like basis. Given there is also no increase in the dog population, this explains the consequent fall in average field quality, the high proportion of races starting with short fields, and the more recent staffing of boxes in city races by Novice or low quality dogs. This all-round squeeze is a nationwide trend.

IS A LEGAL DOOR OPENING?

Let’s hope GRNSW is watching closely to see how the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gets on with its court case against Coles supermarkets. According to The Australian (17 Oct) the claims “contain a litany of potentially damning allegations against Coles and some of its most powerful executives, who help decide what products are placed on the shelf and what price is charged to both shoppers and suppliers”

“This is the second time this year the consumer watchdog has launched action against the nation’s second-biggest supermarket chain over its treatment of suppliers, claiming unconscionable conduct in the way suppliers were treated”.

In effect, the case revolves around Coles telling their suppliers to pay back large amounts of money because Coles could not make a profit selling their goods. Whatever the legalities, this must be the oddest practice known in commercial history.

Woolworths has also asked its suppliers to pay a share of their costs of promoting the Jamie Oliver campaign, which is nearly as odd. Some did and some didn’t but what the longer term outcome will be is a matter for the future.

GRNSW has had legal advice about its obligation to continue subsidising the other two codes from its share of TAB commissions, but decided not to go to court. So far, the NSW government has tried to avoid any responsibility. Would “unconscionable conduct” get a ride there? And will the final outcome of the parliamentary Inquiry recognise the injustice? The discussion is not finished yet.

The original commission sharing agreement was signed off by the then-GRA chairman, citing direct advice to do so from the two major clubs, GBOTA and NCA. The gallops and the trots have refused to consider renegotiation.

Perhaps, like in Victoria, this week’s promotion of the Racing Minister to the deputy Premier role will help?

FRANKING THE FORM

Another great run My Bro Fabio throws up real questions about the makeup of the TOPGUN field where it is only a reserve – second reserve at that, so it has little chance of getting a run. Despite a poor start at Sandown on Thursday, My Bro Fabio soon rounded up the field and won going away in a very quick 29.23. It has now won eight of its last 10 races, all in hot time. Two out, there are only a couple of the existing field that would live with it.

While on the Sandown subject, last Thursday’s meeting attracted some unusually strong betting action. Win pools on the NSW TAB were almost half as big again compared with the average. That business was not diverted from other tracks as both Ipswich (temporarily replacing Albion Park) and Dapto had quite good takings. Even so, the usual sharp decline occurred after 9:30 pm as workers went home to get ready for the following day.

WHY DO THEY WRITE THIS STUFF?

Stewards Report Race 10, Sandown, 16 October.
“Sonic Dash (5) crossed to the rail on the first turn checking Satsuki Bale (1) and Simply Elite (8) causing Simply Elite to race wide”.

Not really. If Sonic Dash touched the inside dog it was miniscule and half way round the turn. It had no effect on the race outcome and was not worth mentioning. Simply Elite was not on the same planet. It did get forced wide but by dogs further back. Nothing remotely to do with Sonic Dash.