The Betting Pictures – Big And Small

There’s a lot to this betting caper. Things have changed significantly over the last decade. Proportionally, the two biggest would be the rise (from nothing) in First Four turnover and the continued rapid growth in Sports betting, which has now soared past Harness racing as the third most popular form of wagering.

We are indebted to the Australian Racing Board Fact Book for the latest figures.

ANNUAL TURNOVER

$ Million 2001/02 2011/12 % Change
Thoroughbred 9,640 (68.0%) 14,376 (60.7%) +49%
Grey/Harness 3,209 (22.6%) 6,051 (25.6%) +89%
Sports 1,325 (9.4%) 3,221 (13.7%) +143%
Total 14,171 (100) 23,649 (100) +67%

ARB does not separate Greyhounds and Harness in most of their data but we do know that in 2011/12 Greyhound turnover was $3,741m (15.8% of total) and Harness $2,310m (9.8%).

Over this decade, which included the Global Financial Crisis, the CPI went up by around 29% so all forms of wagering exceeded that marker. However, in the greyhound case much of its activity has been affected by the conversion of meetings from non-TAB to TAB status, and to scheduling more races per meeting (up from 10.3 to 10.5). Added international meetings also affected turnover.

Sport betting was officially recognised from 1994/95 onwards. Last year TABs handled 52% of that business and bookmakers 48%. Just over half was processed through the internet, about 16% over the phone.

Breaking down greyhound turnover by state sees NSW on top with 32.9% of the total, Victoria 19.8%, NT 16.1% and WA 14.8%. Of course this tells where the bet was recorded, not where the race was run. The NT figure is a function of the location of bookmakers and actually would be attributable to each of the other states.

The other major shift in betting habits is in the type of bet chosen. Again, note the significant changes over the decade.

PREFERRED BET TYPE – ALL CODES

Bet Type 2001/02 2011/12
Win 49.5% 44.1%
Place 18.5% 15.0%
Quinella 7.2% 5.5%
Exacta N/A 2.7%
Double 3.1% 2.4%
Trifecta 17.4% 17.9%
Quadrella N/A 4.8%
First Four N/A 6.2%
Other 4.3% 1.4%
Total 100% 100%

It is not clear where Fixed Odds betting appears in the above list but for greyhounds they accounted for 2.1% of the code’s total in 2011/12. That figure may well be increasing in the current year as recent Tabcorp reports reflect a continuing decline in conventional tote betting. Tabcorp has also joined the ranks of NT bookmakers with its Luxbet operation based in Darwin.

Another omission from these and all other data is the amount of betting done via Betfair, which refuses to supply turnover figures to the ARB (or anybody else). It is estimated to be responsible for a further 2% of all betting.

We can see a clear move away from traditional Win/Place betting to more exotic options where higher returns are available – higher but not necessarily more profitable for the gambler as these all attract much greater takeouts (up to 25%) than Win/Place bets. Such a trend is consistent with other measures which point to the increasing influence of mug gamblers.

A downturn in Win betting is also consistent with the ever increasing proportion of small pools, themselves due to today’s overcrowded programs and the mad competition for the available dollars.

A business assessment of all these changes? A risky future. An apt description might be that the tail is wagging the dog. Racing authorities have handed control over the code’s destiny over to outside forces.

MAD MONDAYS

It’s happening all over but Mondays are suffering badly from the plethora of betting choices available. On the NSW tote, here are some average Win pools from last Monday when 10 meetings were on offer. Most of those were in the twilight or night slots.

AVERAGE WIN POOLS

Track Avg Win Pool
Bathurst (T) $9,034
Cranbourne (T) $8,763
Bulli $8,313
Angle Park $7,426
Hobart $6,672
Shepparton $5,878

Naturally the figures will vary somewhat amongst the other Totes but the pattern is quite a common one. Note also that the averages disguise the fact that pools are erratic from race to race, depending not on the quality of the fields but on clashes with competing races.

Even were punters able to make use of the full pool they would still be in trouble forecasting likely odds. In practice, they would be lucky to see half the above figures before having to place a bet. The same applies to people switching to other TABs, as they are subject to the same limitations, while NT bookies apply TAB odds for most of their bets. Only a Fixed Odds option would be reliable, which could mean taking a worse price (but how would you know?)

Basically, these figures make a nonsense of good punting.

To one degree or another, the Monday syndrome is affecting all other days of the week. As we keep repeating here, too much racing splits the available cash too thinly for good punting. Changes are essential.