Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Last Monday’s article queried the validity of GRV prize money distribution but it is equally important to consider where that cash is coming from. Maybe more so.

For a start, traditional TAB betting is in decline, as Tabcorp boss David Attenborough pointed out a few months ago. In theory, Fixed Odds at the TAB is claiming back a little but in reality it is just taking away from the normal pool. Anyway, I suspect it is quite small in greyhounds.

In 2010/2011, 20% of the action was handled by the fast growing NT bookmakers and a tiny bit more by . That’s a lot considering they have come from nothing and have no face-to-face contact with customers. Still, they have been criticised by former patrons who claim they have been delisted when they won too much. Even so, the NT contribution to re-energising the racing scene cannot be underestimated. As the man said, “Thank God you’re here”.

Nationally, Win betting is giving way to the exotics – another long term trend. Much of this is due to the rise of Trifecta, First Four, Quadrellas, and various specialty products like the Big 6, where investors are tempted by the possibility of lottery-like dividends. In its eagerness, Tabcorp blows up that image by posting inflated First Four dividends (and sometimes for other bet types). In the event of a jackpot, or for a race where almost no winning punters are present, Tabcorp routinely expands the dividend past what would apply for a $1 investment, often faking a 50 cents investment to double the true figure. All other dividends are posted for $1. For example, at Bendigo last , Tabcorp put up a First Four dividend of $7912 for race 6. Yet there was only $4225 available out of the pool.

Whatever excuse it has for that is unacceptable

In particular, Mystery bets have impacted Quinella and Trifecta results. The TAB computer makes sure at least one fancied runner and one long shot is included so the outcome is that most combinations are over-bet and dividends reduced below “true” levels. Skilled punters identifying a dog at “overs” will be dudded because the computer has already picked out too many of them. Here is an example for the Melbourne Cup (horses). A couple of years ago the Trifecta paid $360. Based on the placegetters Win prices, the dividend should have been $680. The difference is due to the high proportion of Mystery Trifectas typically sold for this race, and to the fact that the favourite ran 3rd (any placing would have done).

Let’s note that it is impossible to make a profit over time with boxed bets in Mystery Trifectas – and the same goes for those recommended by many tipsters. Virtually by definition, these contain differently priced runners yet buyers are being asked to take the same price for all. The TAB has won before the race starts, and the gamblers have lost. Pity they don’t know that.

Above all, the stingy sizes of most greyhound pools are a major deterrent to good punting. Put more than $10 on your Quinella choice and you will quickly start destroying the odds and buying back your own money. And who are those people who back a $1.50 favourite in to $1.30, especially when it has no more than an even money chance of winning? Statistics published formerly by the Greyhound Recorder showed that under 50% of odds-on favourites won in NSW, which means everybody loses over time.

A part of the answer is that often the price itself will be a mystery. Small pools mean you will be lucky to see much money before you have to place your bet. Prices are then subject to significant changes as the late money arrives. That goes double for place betting where crazy fluctuations are the order of the day. TAB updates occur more regularly as the start approaches but there is still a lot of betting making its way through the communications system. In big pools that is not so vital.

Of course, that tiny handful of Duet punters would not have the faintest idea what they will be paid. Progress reports are and only a small amount is ever invested in this ridiculous option – one which emerged when the Melbourne version of Tabcorp took over programming from Sydney. Its main function is to rob already small Quinella and Exacta pools.

Analysing all these trends reveals one consistent factor. Much, or maybe most, of the betting is coming from people who have little idea about what they are doing. We call then mug gamblers. Good on them for having a bit of fun and adding to the action. But the problem is that there are now too many of them and not enough

serious punters who can read the formguides and do their arithmetic.

This is the climate in which Greyhounds Australasia chairman Russell Ware told racing ministers recently (at a May Ministerial conference in ) that greyhound racing was “buoyant” and “meets the needs of modern society”. Ware is an experienced company director and so should have looked much closer before jumping to such a conclusion.

Yes, the cash is flowing at the moment, but any buoyancy is mostly due to state authorities working out better commission arrangements and creating more gambling opportunities, almost out of nothing – see above. It has nothing to do with improving the product. Besides, nobody bothers to allow for inflation in these discussions, so the sums are flawed.

What does not add up to buoyancy are a static dog population, lower average field quality, more squibs’ races, and the rise and rise of mug gamblers in the customer profile. None of these help meet the needs of serious punters. And if hardly anyone goes to the track now, how does that describe the “modern society”? What modern society are we talking about? On what basis can anyone claim the code is meeting its needs? The actions of gamblers with a couple of beers under their belt, perhaps, but that’s about it.

The question that boards should be looking at now is what will happen if the above trends continue in the long term, or if they get worse. Racing is being allowed to become a mobile poker machine palace, patronised by who knows what. Not only have we lost the atmosphere of the racetrack, but the soul of racing is disappearing. The interest is all on today’s dollars and not on the excellence of the breed, the spectacle of the race, or the future customer base. Very .

Anyway, it is a shocking omission that Russel Ware’s post-conference media release contained no mention of the urgent need for a betting pool. No single item could be expected to bring a bigger boost to greyhound racing than that. What an opportunity missed!

Perhaps it was due to the fact that GA does not address “commercial” matters, which serves only to highlight the yawning gap in the code’s management system.

* * * * *

The much vaunted but increasingly messy GRV grading system has surely gone mad. Last Friday’s meeting included a race restricted to dogs with “1-6 Wins”.

For heaven’s sake, there are starters in Group races that would qualify for that. In the fields for last Saturday’s top line meeting at , 43 of the 96 starters would have got in, too (unless excluded as Group winners). So what is the point?

Here’s my suggestion. Everybody at GRV, repeat after me – Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Stop! That’s it! Step back from your bench! No more cooking!

* * * * *

Not enough dogs? Or too many races?

Last Sunday’s NP meeting at ran with three maiden and two NP races short of a full field. On the previous night Traralgon had two short fields. Horsham on Tuesday had five maiden races (all containing unraced dogs) and one graded race short of a full field, as well as a Novice 570m. Meanwhile, Meadows next Saturday needs more nominations. Anyone?

It’s not just in Victoria. Tonight’s meeting has reserves only for the Novice event while four graded races have short fields. Scratchings are not available as we go to print. Hmmm.

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