The fact is that greyhound racing has hardly any customers left. It has not happened overnight but it has been building up ever since SKY pictures started appearing in lounge rooms and social clubs from the late 1980s.
The need to visit the racecourse gradually and remorselessly unwound. The attraction was no longer there. With that came a decline in the knowledge of racing, of how dogs race and how they react to certain tracks and distances, of what bookmakers do and, indeed, what price is a good price.
(Coincidentally, a personal view is that the parallel move away from traditional bookmaker’s pricing to the decimalised tote system helped to destroy the concept of odds. People more often expected a $2.00 pop to win all the time rather than win once out of every two attempts as a 1/1 favourite. It may also be no coincidence that the last two decades have also seen a substantial decline in the proportion of high school students taking mathematics in any form).
In its place, we got casual, lottery-like betting on the numbers, sometimes with help from tipsters in your favourite publication. All of which are dubious propositions. And all of which are now being stimulated by one-shot access to betting opportunities via your hand-held device, complete with apps about form and competing offers from a variety of betting operators.
So we forgot about being racing’s customers and morphed into a world where we became customers of the betting systems, much of it online. Whatever they offered, we accepted without query, without analysis, without advice from people we once rubbed shoulders with at the track. Hence the over-bet favourites and all the rest of it.
One outcome of this process would be a decline in knowledge and appreciation of the greyhound breed, and with that a decline in support from the general public. Those images were never strong anyway but the further away from the action the average punter got the weaker that image became.
Contrast that with pictures of fit young men striding on to the football field, attractively attired and stirred up by hordes of fanatical supporters filling the grounds. Yes, they have had their periodic problems too but note how sporting authorities relentlessly seek to maintain and build their squeaky clean images and to present their products more sensitively to women and children. They have customers, no doubt about that, which is why general sports have now overtaken harness racing in the betting stakes and are threatening greyhounds in second place.
In racing, only Tabcorp and Tattsbet now have customers in any numbers, although the latter is losing out steadily. But, by default, they now dominate the sport. They run things. They even outrank governments which are happy just to count the tax income at the end of the week.
The solution? There is no other option but to go out and meet that public, to address them in person, to educate them properly in the mysteries of the greyhound and the intricacies of betting. Don’t let them guess or take the word of people with ulterior motives or even of mates they rub shoulders with in the pub.
The industry cannot just throw out information and hope it hits the mark. It has to be directed and reinforced on screen, in brochures, across the ether and in person. Explain how everything works and how they can take part.
The default position – do nothing – can only increase the level of misinformation, leaving the money-grabbers in charge and reducing it all to poker machine standards.
How Others Are Thinking
A sobering view of the industry came from writer Matt Nicholls on the justracing.com.au website. Let’s quote him directly.
“It is a worrying trend in racing that 90% (by my estimation) of racing reporters are either employed directly by the industry, or employed by people who are given large subsidies by the industry. To clarify that statement, I am including Tabcorp as part of the industry, as its bread and butter is wagering on the three codes of racing.
So basically every reporter seen on TVN or Sky Racing is being fed by the industry. That’s not to say that some won’t make an informed opinion about issues, but you’ll find the majority are either fence sitters or too scared to say anything negative.
The same goes for the reporters that work for the various daily newspapers around the country. While there are still a couple of good ones left, most of them have become puppets for the industry”.
Fortunately, this website is able to present objective views on a variety of subjects, and to prompt debates which you will never see on racing authority pages.
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Nick Cater, in The Australian, 9 December, writing about the tendency for universities to strive more for political correctness than to encourage differing viewpoints, said …
“Higher education is stuck, for now, with an exhausted funding model that gives preference to quantity over quality. It is burdened, too, with a culture that despises pluralism and shouts down debate”.
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Finally, the other day, the left-leaning Sydney Morning Herald printed a long list of letters to the editor ripping into Treasurer Joe Hockey for failing to continue handouts to a variety of deserving causes. The fact that the country is spending more than it earns was lost to these people and to the editor who was unable to present any contrary views.
The whole deal finished with one correspondent advising that “Prayer can produce miracles”. Really? For the Federal budget. Like how?