Punters are the grease of the financial wheels of the three racing codes.
In January 2016, at the height of the furore over live baiting, the Roy Morgan Research Company released some intriguing and ultimately potentially very positive findings with regard to greyhound racing in Australia.
The company stated, ‘…600,000 Australian adults bet on at least one [greyhound race] during the year – and, despite scandals and controversy, this average doggie bettor is around eight years younger than the average horse race punter…’
Roy Morgan Research stated the average age of a gambler on thoroughbreds is 49, whereas the average age of the 3.2 percent of Australian adults who bet on greyhound races was not quite 41, ‘…younger than the average Facebook website visitor…’.
A graph showing the age profiles of greyhound and horse racing bettors revealed only 25.6 percent of greyhound bettors were aged 50+ compared to 46.5 percent of horse racing bettors.
In the 18 to 34-year-old bracket the figures were essentially reversed, showing just 24.7 percent bet on horses compared to 45.1 percent punting on greyhounds.
Greyhound racing still lags behind in simple numbers: 600,000 betting on greyhounds while 3.3 million bet on the horses. This compares to 1.2 million Australians who play poker machines at least weekly.
One of the major plusses for greyhound racing is its relative ease with regard to studying the form. Unlike horse and harness racing where the actions of a jockey or driver can either intentionally or accidentally cause an animal to lose a race, greyhounds run naturally, some, of course, a lot better than others, and a lot quicker. The favourite in a greyhound race doesn’t have the faintest idea it’s the favourite.
In horse racing you have to work out the variables between the track going, the distance of the race, the jockey, the trainer, the number of starters, whether the rail is in or out, track bias, recent form, historic form, weight to be carried, the barrier and any one of a dozen or more other factors.
In a greyhound race, recent form, ability to handle the distance, the box draw and early speed are the key factors as well as times. It’s a lot less complicated for the average punter than the horses, and this may explain part of its allure to the 18 to 34-year-old demographic.
I have little doubt the various Greyhound Adoption Programs have had a long-term positive impact on how the greyhound is perceived, especially among the younger generation. It would also seem to have helped in terms of encouraging younger people to learn more about the racing side and has probably aided in increasing gambling turnover.
Arguably, the reason the Four Corners live-baiting scandal did not adversely impact greyhound racing betting in the younger demographic was simply because these people understood the scandal for what is was: a small cohort of those directly involved in the industry and not reflective of the vast majority of participants.
It is surely incumbent on those tasked with promoting greyhound racing and nurturing it towards its 100th anniversary in 2027 that they seek to build on the generally positive feelings felt for greyhound racing in the under-34-year-old demographic who like to have a punt.
Greyhound racing should be promoted as the absolute best of all punting worlds. Educating the younger demographic to be better gamblers by showing them how much easier it is to pick the winner of a greyhound race compared to a horse race, and how much more profitable it can be in terms of price ranges compared to the average sporting event are just two aspects that should be highlighted.
Of course, making sure people understand that as a racing punter you will have more losing bets than winning bets; you will probably have more losing meetings than winning ones; yet, if you are consistent and sensible in your approach to studying the form and, more importantly, sensible in managing your punting bankroll you can win, or at least have a lot of enjoyment, at the punt.