Fools Rush In …..

Top of my New Year’s wish list is an appeal to a few mug gamblers – possibly eight people in NSW and six in Victoria. They are the folk keeping alive the ridiculous Duet bet. Please stop. If no-one uses it any more Tabcorp might finally get the message and delete it. And Tatts, too.

Each of the Duet options – picking 1st and 2nd, 1st and 3rd, or 2nd and 3rd – attracts a pool of about $80, using Saturday takings at Wentworth Park and The Meadows as a guide. That $80 is then split up amongst the above six, eight or eighty people (more or less).

All Duet accomplishes is to cut back the already small pools on Quinella and Exacta. That would not be a good idea even if those pools were sizeable. But they are not. The small numbers are already a deterrent to serious punters wanting to have a decent bet. Anything over $10 (even less at the provincials) and you are buying back your own money.

I have a longstanding policy of not getting personal in these columns but in this case – after many years of pointing out this problem, including in letters to Tabcorp chiefs – I must make an exception.

The people at Tabcorp responsible for maintaining Duets are acting like fools. Not only are they offering up a highly unpredictable and unnecessary product but they are harming their own turnover at the same time.

Duets have never pulled in any decent cash at any time in their history. Not even in Victoria where they originated. They migrated to NSW only when the two Tabcorp arms merged a few years ago. Melbourne became the dominating force and told NSW what to do. Simultaneously, it changed the ticket layout, and naturally the computer programs as well, so that nobody could understand them properly, including the ticket sellers (to this day – try following the instructions about Roving Bankers, another Victorian masterpiece, and see how you get on).

The same decision-makers also decided to make the Quinella screen share space with Doubles dividends, thereby denying information to potential new customers (for live Quinellas) so that buyers of a dead bet (the Double you could no longer bet on) could obtain a piece of interesting information. Very frustrating.

For a few months they then altered the Quinella presentation to show likely dividends in price order, not runner order. Customers were then lucky to locate one combination before the screen shut off and reverted to Doubles. A horde of investors must have objected because they eventually changed it back. But who were those guys who did it in the first place?

Flat to the boards, Duets pull in $300 a race, and have done so ever since they started many years ago. The evidence is in the cash register – hardly anyone wants them.

Like Mystery bets, like the robotic Trackside, the Duet bet can have been designed only to pull in mug money. No serious punter would go near it. Yet every one of those options serves to spoil the prospects of decent punters getting a decent return. How can that help Tabcorp? Or the codes?

Equally, while Tabcorp’s Fixed Odds may be useful on odd occasions, they also have the effect of cutting back normal tote pools and thereby reducing the incentive to use them – or perhaps diverting customers to NT bookmakers. You might be able to get away with this at the gallops, but not with small greyhound pools. And the chances are good that your price will be worse than on the normal tote because Tabcorp runs a book commonly in the 130% range (compared with 114.5%).

Could this be one of many reasons that serious punters are withering on the vine? The TABs might know what their “premium” customers are doing (and what “bonuses” they get) but what do they know about the tens of thousands of everyday folk who keep things rolling along, all day and half the night? Very little, apparently.

Indeed, why do greyhound authorities put up with this nonsense? They had a marvellous opportunity to clean up this mess when they negotiated the introduction of extra meetings on SKY2 in mid-2010. Yet they fluffed it. Shame on them!

Readers may wonder why Tatts did not get a mention here. Well, once upon a time Tatts (ie UNiTAB) used to show pools sizes on their results pages, which allowed sensible comment. No longer. You may get a bit of information prior to the race but nothing afterwards. The final figures remain a secret. We will tell you what’s good for you!

However, all the indications are that Duets – or Any2 as Tatts calls them – are just as useless there, too. Dividends are puny but unpredictable and pools almost certainly likewise.

Anyone for a national betting pool? Or a national betting ombudsman?

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