Tabcorp Should Get Its Finger Out

It’s all very well for Tabcorp’s boss, David Attenborough, to complain* about the activities of corporate and overseas bookmakers, but should he try to be more competitive himself?

*See address to American Chamber of Commerce, 28 August, listed on Tabcorp website.

The major example can be seen in Tabcorp’s Fixed Odds pricing, where books of 130% are normal and roughly parallel those of the online people. These are punitive figures which no normal customer can ever overcome over a period. In traditional wagering terms, they are an insult to punters.

Attenborough could well order the figures reduced to, say, 117%, which equates to the deduction he takes out of conventional tote business (an average of $16 out of every $100 or $14.50 for Win bets). He could make the pace and re-take the initiative from the NT group. No doubt the NT companies would follow and customers would get a better deal all round. Turnover and prices would both be better, and there is still plenty left for the betting operators to dine out on.

Another sensible move would be to get rid of the ridiculous Duet bet, which hardly anyone buys, and thereby boost turnover for standard Quinella and Exacta betting, both badly in need of help at the smaller greyhound meetings.

So why doesn’t he?

Of course, part of the answer is that, contrary to Attenborough’s claim that “we have morphed into a more agile, customer-led organisation”, Tabcorp is hell-bent on scraping as much as it can out of every bet made, almost regardless of where that will lead customers and the industry in the longer term. For Fixed Odds, the current attitude is that if they (corporate bookies) can do it, so can we. For Duet betting, they obviously cannot be bothered cleaning up a relic of the ages. The customers are not leading at all, Tabcorp is.

WINNING AND LOSING AT THE SAME TIME

Mind you, state racing authorities are no better than Tabcorp as they are also in the 130% camp when quoting odds on their formguides. What a terrible example to set for the industry! It is impossible to understand their motives in doing that. Their other options are to use a 100% book as a guideline to runners’ real chances or to adopt the tote figure of 117% which would allow direct price comparisons.

Let’s take those comparisons a bit further. As I write, at Horsham (Tuesday) the Watchdog is suggesting books of 125%, 132%, 128%, and 127% for four of the better races. But in real life punters did things a little differently. All four of the Watchdog’s top picks also ended up as favourites but at shorter prices.

 

NSW TAB Watchdog Actual
Race 4 $2.80 $1.80 Won
Race 5 $1.70 $1.40 Won
Race 6 $2.00 $1.90 Lost
Race 7 $2.50 $2.30 Lost

 

This introduces three features of greyhound betting; (a) punters over-bet on the favourite; (b) the Watchdog, as the most prominent tipster, probably influences punters’ selections; and (c) the average punter is not paying attention to value.We have not shown Fixed Odds for these races but they are in fact identical to the final tote payout. Information on what happened during the course of betting is not available.

An even dollar on each of these favourites resulted in a loss of 80 cents, or 20% of your $4 investment. To put it another way, the Watchdog’s suggested odds are more sensible but they never happen in practice. Maybe GRV should take out a bookie’s licence?

A further comment would be that most punters would not be aware of the final odds because only around half of the pool would be evident prior to the time punters had to place their bet. Any later fluctuations are influenced by the relatively small size of greyhound pools – and Horsham’s twilight slot on Tuesdays is as good as it gets for provincial racing, often producing bigger pools than for evening races in town (on the NSW TAB).

The outcome is that maybe half the punters are taking a pig in a poke because they are gambling without real knowledge while the other half may understand the form but is still forced to guess that the final price will be satisfactory – and often it will not be. Of course, this may well be one of the factors which encourage a shift to Fixed Odds betting. Seldom will that do you any good but at least you will know what you are getting.

From the industry’s viewpoint, it is stuck with a volatile betting structure, one which has grown up like Topsy and is totally out of the control of racing administrators. The real competition we used to have – from on-course bookmakers – has disappeared along with the on-course crowds they once served. Indeed, that change is the real reason why controls over wagering should have changed long ago. (Efforts by RNSW to regulate online bookmakers are belated steps but are unlikely to reverse the trends significantly).

Aside from extra regulation, solutions, or rather assistance of some sort, are available from two sources – the creation of a national pool with greater price certainty, and mounting efforts to better educate punters about greyhound racing.

The Federal Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, is currently looking into online gambling activities and so may well venture into the wagering scene, particularly as many prominent people are complaining – eg Tabcorp, Racing NSW, former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, and probably Racing Victoria (which often tends to be follower, not a leader).

JOKING, PERHAPS?

Here is one that slipped by me, largely because I take a very low interest in racing at Ipswich due to its disruptive layout.

However, since the recent transfer of form and results data from the local Queensland people to the GRNSW-operated Ozchase system some changes have occurred, not least being the fact that winning box information is missing.

Importantly, they have ended up with the dreadful Tasmanian practice of assigning sectional times for Ipswich 431m races to whatever dog won the race, never mind what actually led. Consequently, future career records will be distorted because they follow only what goes onto the formline.

Queensland is also deficient at all other provincial tracks.

Add to that the more common practice – at NSW Northern Rivers tracks, for example – of not allocating the single sectional time for all short races to any runner at all and you have a dog’s breakfast of data.

Expecting serious punters to support the sport under these conditions is fanciful dreaming.