WHILE discussing Tabcorp’s results last week we mentioned that Tatts/Ubet was soon to report its own 2014/15 results. That has now happened and it is not good news, as we feared.
The Tatts Group as a whole did OK, pushing revenue up by 1.8%, due mostly to lottery profits, but comments on wagering were buried under a lot of waffle about promotion of the new Ubet name and refurbishment of premises. Underneath all that, wagering turnover actually fell by 1.5%. Retail turnover on its own was even worse at -2.3% with the result saved only by a 12.5% improvement in digital business and Fixed Odds growth of 21.8%.
The 1.5% fall in wagering follows a 2.0% drop in the previous full year. That’s an ominous trend.
Repainting the shops hardly seems likely to overcome Ubet’s structural difficulty in competing with larger pools and perhaps better prices from competitors. Neither will more upheavals in all the Queensland racing sectors help boost Ubet’s prospects in the coming year.
Tatts now has only two realistic options; sell off Ubet or convince state governments to create a national betting pool which would then give local customers something more reliable to bet into. The alternative is continuing decline.
Betting-wise, of the nine Australian states and territories only Victoria could be said to be stable. SA and Tasmania are smallish Ubet states and suffer from a bleed across to bigger Tabcorp pools in Victoria. (Both were once aligned to Melbourne for both tote and form services). NSW is still penalised by the terrible 99-year deal done by a past administration, and therefore provides huge cross subsidies to the gallops and trots. WA is already aligned with Supertab in Victoria but is debating whether to privatise the tote or keep it in government hands. The ACTTab has just sold out to Tabcorp. The NT is tiny in itself but is largely dependent on income from the home offices of most of the online bookies. The territory of Norfolk Island (Ladbrokes’ “home”) is broke and in a state of flux as it faces a full Commonwealth takeover, together with the introduction of taxation, etc.
What a mess! Nonetheless, virtually all states could benefit from a national amalgamation of betting pools. Concurrently, the states could update and harmonise their betting rules so as to offer customers a better deal and thereby building more business. Such a change could be good for all.
Who is the champion?
The National Championships at Wentworth Park produced two brilliant performances and a host of also-rans. Sweet It Is accounted for an ordinary bunch of distance dogs with (a) a better jump than usual and (b) a massively powerful last 100m. One day it would be worth assessing its heart and lung sizes to see just how it manages that.
There’s no doubting its ability and its record breaking time of 41.52 speaks for itself. However, that was the first time it has gone to that level (I do not count New Zealand distance records), perhaps because it more often makes a meal of the first half of the race. So this is a very fine stayer but I still hesitate to put it into the “champion” category. Not when it has only a 36% win rate and there have been many occasions when it should have won but didn’t. And on this occasion, like many others, it did not have a lot to beat. Nationwide, the staying ranks are pretty ordinary by comparison with the past. Still, it’s a credit to Sweet It Is that it is verging on $1 million in prize money.
Fernando Bale, an emphatic winner of the Sprint series, is a different kettle of fish. He does not break records but he wins 79% of his races, all of which have featured both good starts and good finishes over a variety of distances, and most of which contained top level opposition. Unlike Sweet It Is, that stacks up against any performance in the 21st century, Brett Lee included. (Brett Lee, with a similar number of starts, also averaged a 79% win rate).
Like another commentator, I thought Fernando had lost a little edge in his previous couple of runs in Melbourne but it seems the lengthy break prior to the Wenty run freshened him up no end. And 29.26 at Wenty is hot stuff.
On balance, Fernando Bale has more claim to the “champion” title than Sweet It Is.
That, of course, is not to be confused with the title of the races. These events are not championships at all but State of Origin contests. Invariably, half the field is not competitive so it is about time there was a name change.
State of the breed
One of our suggestions for scientific study the other day was a serious independent review of that we call “The State of the Breed”. Why, for instance, are we not getting more stayers in the rank? What is contributing to the continuing increase in short course racing? Are some injuries of genetic origin? And so on.
I notice that the UK Greyhound Board has been on to this and made the following statement a couple of years ago:
“Over the last three years we have worked closely with veterinary surgeon Ruth Dockerty and Liverpool University to profile genetically the greyhound population. This will provide valuable information to advise on responsible breeding of greyhounds in the future”.
There is no report readily available but our university friends at the Working Dog Alliance might be able to tell us more about it.