In its wisdom, GRV decided to shift this week’s Monday meeting at Cranbourne from its normal twilight slot to night time, perhaps because of the presence of the Puppy Classic final.
Apparently, GRV regards night meetings as the go, relying on old-time thinking when all decent greyhound racing was at night. These days, it would be hard to think of a lousier time of the week for betting purposes than Monday nights.
Next worst would be Tuesday nights, which is what Horsham had to suffer for its Cup meeting earlier this year. That attracted good crowds at the course but tote betting across the nation was dismal. As with Cranbourne, Horsham’s usual twilight spot is a popular one but this time it had to move to the evening. That shift cost the industry many thousands of dollars in lost income. Warrnambool had a somewhat similar experience on Wednesdays.
So how did Cranbourne get on?
The 12-race Classic meeting averaged Win pools of $9,334 in NSW. It was probably not helped by including five restricted win races on the program. The feature race itself barely got past $10,000. At that level, betting and prices are in the lap of the gods. Victorian pools were better, as would be expected. For example, race 8, the Puppy Classic, pulled in $20,463 which sounds nice until you check what happened in race 8 in the previous two weeks. On 10 September in the twilight slot, the pool reached $41,592. Back to 3 September, still during twilight, and it was $29,714
In the twilight slot in the previous week, NSW pools averaged of $16,452 or 76% higher than for the night meeting. Back another week, and still in the twilight zone, the average was $15,855 or 70% higher than the big night.
This experience paralleled that of Horsham and other tracks where a time change obviously put off punters.
Nor did the swap work for the displaced meeting. Last Monday, Shepparton shifted from night to twilight to make way for Cranbourne yet still recorded very ordinary figures.
The GRV policy ignored a well-tried truism in marketing of giving customers a reliable and predictable service. People do not like changes to their routine. In any case, any hope of a bumper night at the track would have to be tempered by the fact that viewing at Cranbourne is hopelessly inadequate. Eyes have to travel from the “grandstand” across a wide grassed area, then over a galloping track and a harness track before reaching the greyhound fence. The only logical thing for patrons to do is to turn around and watch the TV monitors, just like the folks at home.
The end result is that the GRV programming decision cost the industry many tens of thousands of dollars in lost income, just as it did in similar circumstances previously.
For a long time now there has been clear evidence that night racing from Sunday to Wednesday is less productive than twilight racing on the same days. Even Thursdays and Fridays are suspect at times, particularly for late races. Repeatedly, the time of day and the day of the week prove to be more important than the quality of the races offered. It’s a shame, but a fact of life.
At a guess, this is a direct reflection of social and work habits in the community. If you have to get up early to go to work, you do not go out and party the night before. These days, many folk work overtime to balance the family budget while others are involved in four-day weeks with longer shifts.
Couple those trends with smallish pools, which discourage big betting, and a tendency for many TAB outlets to close by 7 pm or 8 pm (also for the above reasons) and you have a fundamental change in the nature of the beast. Yet it is a change which has gone unheeded by greyhound authorities.
A long-awaited move to a national betting pool would improve greyhound prospects markedly, yet despite waffle from time to time, there is no evidence that such a move is getting any closer. Nor any evidence that greyhound authorities are pushing aggressively for that change. The inability of states to talk with one another is a serious barrier to progress in this country. Four years ago, a badly-advised NSW Racing Minister even refused Tabcorp permission to combine its NSW and Victorian pools, which would have been of some help.
All these faulty management decisions come at a time when serious punter numbers are falling and mug gamblers rising in importance. Breeding numbers are flat or falling, despite GA claims that the industry is “buoyant”. Average field quality is also in decline as a direct result of management action to promote racing for slow dogs. But which is the chicken and which the egg? The inability to assess cause and effect in business matters, the attention to short term gains, and the complete failure to address a changing customer profile have denied racing the opportunity to jump to a higher plane and provide greater rewards for participants.
Cash is still flowing but largely as a function of bigger slices of the existing pie, limited government handouts, a declining interest in harness racing and patronage of additional sub-standard racing at off-peak times. It has all the hallmarks of a fool’s paradise – the chickens must eventually come home to roost.