Counting The Cost

You might recall our fear that young folk arriving at TAB outlets were not up to scratch on their maths these days (see 9 April article – Putting Life Back Into Punting). Apparently, that’s official. Here are figures about year 12 students, quoted by the Director of Mathematics at the University of NSW (SMH 12 May):
Taking advanced level mathematics – 10.1%
Taking intermediate level mathematics – 19.6%
Other – 50.0%
No mathematics at all – 20.3%

As I recall there was a time when that would not have been possible as all students were compelled to take at least a basic form of mathematics throughout their high school years. No longer, it seems.

On a related matter, recent media reports indicated investigations are under way to prevent kids (under 18) from gambling on the internet and elsewhere, whether for money or just fun. That seems fine as far as it goes – although still a big task – but there is no mention of attempts to better educate youngsters about the odds they are facing, which is surely the key to the whole argument.

A report in The Guardian in the UK (3 Dec 2011) goes down this road.
“Gamcare, a gambling addiction support service (partly funded by the gambling sector), has proposed that pupils should be taught about fruit machines, how to study sports teams to improve chances of winning and how to calculate odds”.

UK Labour has backed calls for children as young as 12 to learn about gambling in school. The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, said pupils needed information to prepare them for the adult world. “This is something that shouldn’t be left to chance,” he said. “With the rise of online gambling, there is clearly a need for children and young people to be given good advice. It is right that, just like drug and alcohol addiction, teenagers and children are given information to prepare them for the adult world”.

Obviously, this is a contentious issue but surely some sort of knowledge is better than none.

Still on the question of racing’s public image, no-one has pointed out that wagering on racing – at any age – is virtually the only means of gambling which offers some chance of making a profit over time. Not easily, of course, but it is possible whereas in other fields the house takes a big slice of the action and pays between 60% and 90% or so of what you invested. Certainly the TABs are no better in some ways but at least you have the opportunity of using your skills to beat them – or more correctly, beat your fellow punters – and coming out ahead.

The odd exceptions to this rule – such as card counters – are normally chucked out of the gambling house fairly quickly. Big Brother is watching them.

A similar PR problem exists when studies – mostly by academics – report on how much the average punter lost over the last year. They don’t “spend” but always “lose”. Yet they never say how much people “lost” on restaurant meals or concert tickets or golf club fees or anything else that occupies their recreational time. The boffins are forgetting that many people allocate a weekly amount to spend on their punting, just as they do for a meal at Maccas or the local pizza parlour.

And restaurants and concert promoters do not pay turnover taxes which end up funding roads, hospitals or whatever.

All this puts racing behind the eight-ball before the game starts. Certainly the “problem gambler” issue deserves attention but let’s remember it affects only a tiny percentage of all gamblers, and even less so in racing than in other forms of gambling.

Racing in general must develop more sophisticated means of putting out its message. A better educated and better informed public can only help the industry. Kids, too.

Freedom To Run

Generally, my own practice is to ignore new tracks until a few months have gone by and good information is available. Bendigo is one such but, meantime, it is interesting to see that competitors in 500m races are producing very consistent results, despite the start near a bend.

82% of winners have recorded times between 28.20 and 28.99. 52% ran between 28.30 and 28.65. That includes some maiden and Tier 3 races. A narrow band like that suggests that interference is low and the layout suits most runners. The only tighter example worth noting is for 515m races at Bulli, which has a comparable configuration.

Dogs appreciate a long straight run to sort themselves out.

Spinning Along

I note that the GRV chairman has announced that the $3.2m Ballarat redevelopment will include a “refurbished grandstand”. I presume that means a better class of chair to stand on. Ballarat, like several Victorian greyhound tracks, does not really have a grandstand. The next door trots do, though. Maybe he got confused.

Anyway, last time I visited, a 10-seat grandstand would have been sufficient for the public.