Report points the way to better betting on greyhound racing

THE recent Roy Morgan report on wagering profiles, ferreted out by colleague Kat Ernst in her recent article, represented a huge jump in knowledge for the industry. None of that stuff has been available previously – or not in public. Here is the critical part.

“Throughout the year, it was estimated 600,000 Australian adults placed a bet on at least one greyhound race, with the average age of the person placing the wager being 41. The lower age average has been driven by the overwhelming popularity of greyhound racing among Australians within the 25-34 age bracket, with this demographic making up 34.2% of all wagers placed. The research shows this group is 80 per cent more likely to bet on greyhound races despite only making up around one fifth of the population. The second largest age bracket betting on the dogs was 35-49 (29.3 per cent), followed by 50-64 (19.2 per cent), 18-24 (10.9 per cent) and finally 65 plus, who made up 6.4 per cent.”

The Roy Morgan people were not quite sure who all these folk were. Well, I can help fill out the picture on youngish gamblers.

First, remember that most of the betting on dogs takes place at ClubTabs and PubTabs between about 4pm and 9pm, because that’s when dogs race.

Second, knocking off work between 3:30pm and 5:30pm releases a large group of people who are thirsty, so they head for the aforesaid clubs and pubs, especially but not only those who are single.

Third, many couples like the occasional night out so also head for the club or pub for dinner – mostly to the clubs. Dad might have the odd bet while mum has a flutter on the pokies (never vice versa).

Fourth, mum usually likes to get home in reasonable time so the club will empty out after 9pm, regardless of what dad wants to do. Singles have usually had enough to drink by then, too, so they disappear as well. In addition, recognising the last point, many clubs and pubs shut down their TABs after 9pm anyway. This is why late races have poor turnover, with minor exceptions on Friday and Saturday for those who don’t have to go to work the next morning.

Fifth, the wide availability of “mug” betting options on touch screens and for Mystery bets is a relative recent phenomenon. Some knowledge helps but is not necessary. This lets in folk who have no idea about racing, thereby bumping up the proportion of betting people in the critical Roy Morgan age groups. They are not punters at all; they are just having fun.

So all those Roy Morgan numbers occur because, socially speaking, they are the people in the right place at the right time. It is purely coincidental that greyhound racing is there to welcome them.

A note on ClubTabs – generally speaking, 15 or 20 years ago the typical ClubTab would see fifteen or twenty bettors present well into the night. No longer. Today, there are not too many to start with, they know less and spend less and they leave earlier. A major reason for that would be the rise and rise of PubTab licenses, which then split the business, even though their patrons are no more knowledgeable than they used to be.

The key to the whole deal is not gambling as such but social interaction, being with friends, indulging in a recreation. Gambling opportunities just happen to be part of that recreation.

How do I know all this? Because I have been rubbing shoulders with them and counting them for decades – or certainly since SKY and the internet started up and the need to get to the track disappeared. Which is also why I wrote about “mug gamblers” in my previous article “Greyhound racing is being subsidised by mug gamblers” on January 18. In short, what gamblers used to learn at the track is not available at ClubTabs and PubTabs.

The other way of looking at this is that there has been a wholesale shift in the way people bet on greyhounds. Fortunately, the code has generally maintained a level whereas the gallops and the trots have been losing ground. However, greyhounds have had some artificial help – over the years, extra races and better commission deals have counter-balanced the falls in individual meeting turnover. The quantity is there, if not the quality.

All of which points to a gap in the market. If the current profile of the greyhound bettor is dominated by people without much knowledge of racing, how much better would it be if they were able to learn more?

An obvious measure to encourage more and better punting would be the availability of point-of-sale material at those same Clubs and Pubs – stuff which explained the ins and outs of greyhound racing. Currently, what’s available are a mixed bag of formguides which newcomers can’t read or understand and TAB brochures which do no more than instruct you how to fill out a betting ticket.

How (some of) the world works

Here is a terrific quote from a New York investment whiz, as repeated in The Australian on January 20.

“People do what works until it stops working and then they keep doing it because it used to work.”

The guy was actually talking about the Chinese economy but, if you think about it, this perfectly describes the way greyhound racetracks are designed and built in this country.

Cup query

It was a brilliant, if surprising, run by To The Galo’s (what is the apostrophe for?) to take out the Warragul Cup on Friday night. As I indicated the other day, whatever led around the corner would win. So it did. The favourites began poorly.

My only problem is that To The Galo’s allegedly broke the track record in a claimed 25.34 (GRV official results). But the semaphore board said it ran only 25.49. To the eye, that seemed more likely, but who can tell? For every other race on the night, official results and the semaphore agreed, more or less. Many of those were also quite quick, especially Absolute Power’s 38.84 over 680m, also a track record, so the club had obviously done a manicure job in its preparation for the Cup final.

To The Galo’s has had a few smart wins in its career – 25.85 in its Cup heat, 23.78 at Bendigo and 24.73 at Sale but has not looked like busting records previously. However, it has a new trainer now, so the changed circumstances may have helped.

Stewards made no comment on the disparity in the times. Some clarification is called for.

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