To find out about that, some comparisons are worthwhile. Take the lunchtime meeting at Warragul last Thursday; 12 maiden events containing the usual mix of first starters and whatever. (Comments in this article relate to Victorian races but they could be made about any part of the country).
On the NSW Win tote those maidens pulled in an average of $10,170. Individual races ranged from $6,000 to $15,000 (all figures here would be higher in Victoria but the relativity is similar).
Compare those figures with takings in the previous couple of weeks at Warrnambool where they ran heats and semis of both the Classic and Cup series, all in the night time slot. These are Warrnambool’s “Olympics”, their grand finals. The club termed them the “Best Ever”.
Warrnambool Wednesday 11 April (normal meeting) Average $10,888 ($8,000 to $14,000)
Warrnambool Tuesday 17 April (heats) Average $6,796 ($4,000 to $13,000)
Warrnambool Wednesday 18 April (heats) Average $11,596 ($8,000 to $16,000)
Warrnambool Wednesday 25 April (semis) Average $13,134 ($8,000 to $20,000)
Now, this is a limited sample but many similar checks in the past – eg for the Horsham Cup series in early March – suggest the pattern is not unusual. And they tell us a lot.
1. Tuesday nights are not popular, Wednesdays only a little better.
2. Turnover dies off late in the night.
3. Twilight is often better than at night, especially Sunday to Wednesday.
4. Financially, there is little to choose from between maiden and higher quality races.
5. Due to late betting habits and communication delays only about half the total money would be visible in the pool before placing a bet. Price changes are always on the cards.
6. Neither Classic or Cup heats were especially popular,
7. The semis, containing many top class sprinters, did marginally better but not by enough to get excited about.
8. Race by race turnover is erratic – obviously dependent on clashing races, both dogs and trots.
9. Field quality is almost irrelevant in betting terms.
10. Educated money – ie from serious punters – appears absent.
In total, the evidence suggests the greyhound industry can throw up a dozen races containing any old eight dogs and the result will be much the same. Unraced maidens or Group winners are irrelevant. Time of day and day of week are much more influential. The product has turned into a four-legged poker machine, no more, no less. The customer profile is heavily slanted towards mug gamblers who are amused by any contest, never mind the quality. They are also flighty, and may disappear to some other gambling haven at the drop of a hat.
Why is this so?
The fundamental reason is that the industry, with some honourable exceptions, has not bothered about customers over the last two decades – ie since SKY opened up. It assumes the fans will turn up, cash in hand, formguide at the ready, from who knows where. This is a modern version of the cargo cult where Pacific islanders waited expectantly for ships to arrive, disgorging goodies for them to enjoy (as they did in WW11). Many failed to plant crops as a result, and were desperately short of food for months or years to come. It did not work then, and it’s not working now.
The next most important factor is that the industry’s efforts to educate the public about the racing greyhound have failed. It persists in preaching to the converted (breeders, owners and trainers), sometimes not even that, and publishing nothing but good news stories and boring media handouts. Out in the street, the historical negative view of the greyhound is still common.
Thirdly, when someone with a bit of spare cash decides to have a go, he (nearly always “he”) will find it very difficult to do much good because of the disruptive nature of many of our tracks. They are badly designed. Some interference is unavoidable, too much is a killer. (See interference survey in 16 April article)
A fourth factor is that TABs and SKY, which are offering the product at thousands of venues across the country, are hell bent on promoting mug gambling, especially via Mystery bets, but also by artificially inflating dividends (notably First Fours) to lottery levels, and by ramming race after race through the system, often simultaneously on SKY1 and SKY2. That’s pretty much what licensed clubs do as they try to trap you with row after row of poker machines. They don’t want you to think, only to re-invest.
The good news is that all this is reversible. Not by administrators but by forward-thinking business managers. Nothing less than a 100% increase per race would be an acceptable target.
All that’s necessary is to find some seeds and then plant and water them.