Politics And Racing Are Not Mixing

I finally learnt that my old man knew a bit more than I gave him credit for. He reckoned that government worked best when you had two Liberal lots followed by one Labor, repeating indefinitely. He wasn’t far wrong. In recent times, both Howard and Hawke/Keating did well but they were probably there one session too long. Whitlam and his incompetent group fitted the formula, while the equally poor management of Rudd/Gillard/Rudd lasted much longer than was helpful.

But the problem for racing is that the Liberals are useful in keeping things on an even keel but not much value in bringing about needed reform. Labor, on the other hand, will often bring in reforms but is not so good at administration. However, so long as the states are half and half, it will be difficult to make changes nationally.

The Feds are not much concerned with racing, although they are now looking into the operations of overseas betting organisations which horn in on local racing. However, that will concern the legalities, not their regulation.

The states are a mixed bag, but a hungry one because racing contributes more than one dollar in every ten to their treasuries. Even so they dabble where angels fear to tread. All initially failed to grasp the nature of the betting environment when, stirred along by their respective departments, the TABs and the major gallops clubs, they tried unsuccessfully to ban online bookies and Betfair.

The WA Minister even passed a law banning betting exchanges. That did not last long after the High Court chucked it out and the Minister later lost his job.

Queensland ended up with a Minister whose competence must be seriously queried after he returned to the dark ages when he established an inbred batch of interacting boards to cover each of the three codes, with another in charge of the lot. So far, results are poor but are momentarily disguised by a big financial boost from the new agreement with Tattsbet (soon to change its name to Ubet). As in Victoria, that bonus was not earned – it just happened.

NSW may have some hope now that the new boy is also the Deputy Premier, but that has yet to be demonstrated. The Premier has indicated any change (following the parliamentary Inquiry) will be a “budget consideration”, whatever that means. Of course, past Country/National Party Ministers (for they “own” the racing office) have proven to be ineffectual, which is par for the course with that crowd.

Generally, Racing Ministers are low on the political totem pole, which means they lack the leverage to combat Treasurers and Premiers, or to introduce reforms. Victoria has been an exception since the Premier took on the job himself and made sure funds flowed freely to all codes. What will happen under Labor now is up for grabs but there is little left to hand out anyway. Racing is doing OK.

Regardless of all that, and despite some occasional urging, no state has shown signs of addressing the crazy and rapidly changing nature of the betting market. It is almost at a Rafferty’s Rules stage as tote business declines, genuine bookmakers fade away or emigrate to the Northern Territory and the uncontrollable and generally unregulated nature of the Fixed Odds sector becomes more dominant.

Equally important is that the major TAB – Tabcorp – is far more interested in expanding its overseas coverage at the cost of reducing the quality of services provided to local meetings. The racing codes, should they wish, are powerless to do much about that because they long ago gave away their influence over such “service providers”, which is what totes are supposed to be. Indeed, once upon a time they were hired by the individual clubs, usually under competitive bidding.

Missing from the equation is that none of the three racing codes possess a national body with the authority and responsibility to mount a defence or, better still, to initiate a strong campaign to control their own destinies and more effectively deal with everyone from TABs to customers. The effort is split eight ways by three codes and agreement is hard to achieve.

But how can you talk effectively to your Racing Minister when both of you know real power can come only from the weight of a national organisation? You don’t have much leverage. Somehow, racing has to re-establish its power base before things get completely out of hand.

Politics has become more about appearances than about outcomes. Let’s hope racing does not fall into the same trap.

Don’t Believe What You Read

I have been mentioning peculiarities with steward’s report for some months now, not because they are life and death issues but because they illustrate a significant lack of attention to detail and to more important matters. One example of the latter is the up and down form displayed by Allen Deed at Sandown and Ballarat recently – all of which attract no comments or questions at all. Here are two more amongst many that I have not bothered to list.

Race 10, Sandown, 18 December.

“Dyna Fatbob (2) and Bunga Bunga (1) collided soon after the start.  Dr. Des (1), Dyna Fatbob (2) and Bunga Bunga (3) collided soon after the start. Polly Bale (6) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Rumero Reason (5).  Strange Wish (4) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking Bunga Bunga (3) and Dyna Fatbob (2)”.

In fact, Rumero Reason jumped awkwardly – Polly Bale had nothing to do with that. Strange Wish also had nothing to do with Dyna Fatbob and Bunga Bunga. As the first sentence above states, the latter two did their own colliding, largely because Bunga Bunga wanted to get to the rail..

Race 7, The Meadows, 17 December.

It was interesting that stewards belatedly reviewed the film for this race and then issued an updated report which found that experienced racer Morningside eased in the final run to the post, which is fair enough. At the same time they might have reviewed another comment.

“Our Shiraz (4) crossed to the rail soon after the start checking An That (2) and Dyna Inca (3)”.

In fact, while Our Shiraz may have brushed Dyna Inca on the way to the turn, the impact was minor and it had no effect whatever on An That.

Too Tired?

On a related matter, the danger of stayers backing up too quickly is a no-brainer although authorities have taken no action since I have brought up the subject over the last few months. However, the point was emphasised just the other day when the connections of Tears Sam volunteered the information that perhaps its poor run at Sandown on December 18 was a reaction to its slashing performance on December 14, when it bolted in at good odds, recording 41.91. No doubt, but tell that to the punters who backed it in to $1.40!

Meantime, just as an example, I took a close look at the four 460m races at Geelong last Friday. Do you know that 13 of the 32 runners had raced during the previous six days, some only four days earlier. How is it possible for fans to judge how they will back up? Some do but some don’t.

Past Discussion

  1. about time Bruce you declared your allegiance to the Tories, it’s obvious so if you could just put that note at the end of your
    rants about the Labor Party or the left, just add I am a card carrying Tory, Thanks

  2. about time Bruce you declared your allegiance to the Tories, it’s obvious so if you could just put that note at the end of your

    rants about the Labor Party or the left, just add I am a card carrying Tory, Thanks

  3. Who would have thought an old, white male thinks Howard did anything remotely good for this country, while referring to the Whitlam government as “incompetent”?

  4. Who would have thought an old, white male thinks Howard did anything remotely good for this country, while referring to the Whitlam government as “incompetent”?