The troops are grumbling in both NSW and Queensland. Following a private meeting of several NSW club and industry advisory groups a week ago, it seems a presentation to the Racing Minister is being drafted in the hope of achieving improvements in the way GRNSW is running things.
Fine details are not available but apparently a major beef is that costs are up and prize money has not kept pace. That’s hardly news and the subject was well explored in the parliamentary Inquiry earlier in the year. Since the Inquiry’s basic report has been out for some time and is being considered by the Minister you have to wonder about the purpose of the fresh push. In any event, this is one subject that GRNSW has frequently mentioned in its own publications, although it has been very short on suitable solutions.
Whatever the merits of the case, to try to influence the Minister at this stage is pointless. He will simply advise people to wait until the final report is available and he has had a chance to review it.
What is a pity is that the final report – to follow on from an internal financial investigation by the NSW Treasury – is delayed again until mid-October, three months after it was promised.
We have no idea what that will say but I am always doubtful about the competence of the Treasury to come up with useful recommendations in respect to business matters. Their history includes a forced increase in taxes on Win bets, which then caused truckloads of turnover to disappear down the Hume Highway to Melbourne. It was scrapped a few weeks later.
We should also note that Professor Percy Allen, who had a lengthy stint as chairman of GRNSW, himself came from a career as the big cheese in that same Treasury. Yet he was one of the leading objectors to the arrival and legalisation of Betfair and the online bookies from the Northern Territory. At one stage he made an impassioned speech to greyhound followers at the Social Club, calling on them to boycott the newcomers. Bean counting and obsolete traditions outweighed good business sense, and he was far from alone.
To add salt to the wound, the various state Ministers convened a high level group of racing department officials (the Betting Exchange Task Force) to consider submissions and report on the worth of betting exchanges. It seems they came with riding instructions because the group (NT excepted) concluded they would be a fate worth than death and should be banned.
Submissions to that study embraced each state’s own racing department as well as TABs and major racing authorities, all of whom were either emotionally opposed to the newcomers (viz Percy Allen) or had vested interests (viz the TABs).
They did not bother to check the facts and investigate the betting exchange history in the UK, where both The Jockey Club (which controls UK gallops) and various police bodies had found that Betfair was not only useful but had been able to uncover systematic race fixing scandals which had previously gone unnoticed. Rather than constituting a risk, Betfair had proved to be a boon to racing.
The same ignorance was evident in Queensland, where the GRA was then chaired by a prominent local accountant. All these organisations ignored the fact that thousands of customers were deserting the monopoly TABs at the time, never mind whether the newcomers were “legal” or not.
Not to forget the misguided action by the WA Minister to outlaw Betfair’s operation in that state, only to be shot down in flames when the High Court over-ruled his decision.
Or the action of the Tasmanian government to sell off its tote to the smaller and less competitive Tatts organisation, thereby ensuring that much local business would switch (or continue) to the larger Tabcorp system based in Melbourne.
No organised revolution is present in Queensland today but there is a constant barrage of criticism from participants and commentators about the way Racing Queensland operates and how it is structured – “jobs for the boys” is a typical complaint and two members of the initial RQ board have now resigned, apparently in disgust. Greyhound racing in the state is in relentless decline, and has been for the last 20 years, but remedial action is absent.
The fact that some of these incompetent business decisions have now been reversed serves only to underscore the inability of the industry, including those in government, to act appropriately and in the best interests of the various codes and their participants.
In such a climate, what can we expect the two state governments to do? Queensland is clearly hopeless as the motives behind its new governance set-up are peculiar, to say the least, and the individual code boards are effectively powerless where it counts most. In NSW the new Racing Minister is an unknown but nothing has happened since the new government took over, save a recent decision to donate a few million to the gallops to help with their staging of the “Championships” next year. In any event, historically Racing Ministers are low on the political totem pole and may not get to see their preferences satisfied (Victoria is an exception, at least until the next election).
Going back to the NSW Treasury, all we can hope for is a recommendation to reduce government racing taxes on greyhounds, bringing them more into line with those applying in Victoria, for example. The Inquiry will then take a while to consider its position. What the politicians do after that is in the lap of the gods. Whatever, it is hard to see much benefit coming from an attack on the Minister right now. Later, perhaps.
All of which bypasses the real problem with racing organisations – their bureaucratic and unresponsive nature and their lack of business acumen. As one of the current NSW campaigners correctly pointed out – there is no real accountability for the job they do.
FEWER WORDS, MORE FACTS, PLEASE
The great Richie Benaud advised newcomers to the commentary game that “if you can’t add something to the picture then say nothing”. At the same time a group of us used to have bets on how many mistakes Tony Greig would make in each turn with the microphone – two to four was the usual range. Sometimes I think Victorian stewards should have been picking up these clues, too.
After race 11 at The Meadows last Saturday they advised, “My Kinda Music (4) crossed to the rail approaching the first turn checking Velocemente and Sapporo. Velocemente and Dyna Fulcrum collided on the first turn causing Dyna Fulcrum to race wide”.
The first bit was only half right. It did chop off Sapporo (2) but Velocemente (1), a moderate beginner, was well behind and not involved. Then Velocemente ran off on the first turn – of its own volition – something which was unusual since it is a railer. That warranted a comment but it did not get one. Far better to have said nothing so viewers would not be misled. Alternatively, they could point out to those in charge that the turn is too sharp and needs remodelling – perhaps at the same time as they re-position the wham-bang-thank-you-ma’am start for 600m races.