Apparently, Greyhounds Australasia Ltd has one of its quarterly board meetings this month. The date and the agenda are not available because they are kept secret, as are the decisions, if any. However, it is timely for our leaders to get together because there are big political and economic moves on at the moment and they could have wide ranging effects on the industry.
Tasmania has just voted in a new Liberal government which is intent on cutting costs and encouraging new business, including more forestry activity. What it will do about the loss-making government instrumentality that runs greyhound racing is unknown. In South Australia, whatever way the final votes go, it will have a hung parliament, or nearly so, meaning decisions will be few, hard fought and possibly illogical.
Both states have been suffering from a drop in employment and business activity and are being kept alive by handouts from Canberra, including attracting a bigger share of GST takings than is justified by their population or sales volumes. Either way, it does not augur well for betting growth from recreational punters.
Queensland, another smaller greyhound state under the Tattsbet wing, continues to blunder along under the worst governance structure ever seen in racing history (run by insiders voted for by other insiders) and suffers from a chronic shortage of dogs of all standards. Even horses are moving south of the border looking for higher prize money. The LNP state government is still at sixes and sevens as it tries to combat financial problems left by the previous occupants and is stuck with a racing minister who keeps demonstrating he has not a clue about what makes the industry tick. He has just issued a media release looking forward to a fantastic year ahead, which is like whistling as you walk through the cemetery at midnight.
Tattsbet has also been doing some hopeful whistling despite the poor performance of its tote business and its declining share of the market – a process which must inevitably continue as the big get bigger and the small get smaller.
So the GAL meeting will be looking at the most worrying trends seen in decades as the lopsided growth continues across the country, with only one possible means of avoiding disaster – it has to scream from the rooftops for state racing ministers to bring in a national betting pool, and quickly. Nothing less will help small state finances.
It will be a good test of the seriousness and the vision of the people around the GAL table.
And, by the way, WA has moved past its mining boom era so cash will not be as plentiful as it has been in the past. Racing authorities have yet to obtain funding for a good part of the new Cannington complex – due next year. Then NSW is shortly to hear from the parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing. That minority report is unlikely to be complimentary, but it is also unlikely to provoke much action from the current government. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. The low probability of a dismantling of the horrible 99-year commission sharing agreement is the main worry.
SMALL POINTS, BUT TELLING
Formguides, which are the industry’s prime means of communication with the public, need to be informative, accurate and easy to read. Yet the current lot fall short in several ways. Here is a small example.
Some time back, our leaders (no idea who) decided to change the system for posting running numbers, which are very important in assessing the sort of dog you are dealing with. They cut off the last number – the one denoting its finishing position – and included only those relevant to a “corner” of the track. Translated, that actually means the entry to and exit from each turn. This process adopted the practice used in WA, but not anywhere else (although Queensland has never published running numbers in its entire life).
Taking another example from that March 11 meeting at Warragul mentioned previously in this column, we find that the winner Arizona Showman was shown as “11” rather than “111” as was once the case. That is both annoying and unnecessary. But, for different reasons, it also happens to be factually misleading.
At best, when reading a future formguide, it means your eye has to dodge back and forth between the finishing position column and the column showing running numbers. It does not sound like a big deal but it makes life harder for anyone reading that page (or between two and four pages if reading the cumbersome GRNSW guide).
At worst, it does not reveal the true facts. In this case, if you read the stewards report you would see that “Arizona Showman was slow to begin”. So which is right – “11” or “slow to begin”? They are contradictory.
The answer is that both are right under current practice. The dog was stone motherless after the jump, but then roared to the lead from its outside box to record a slashing sectional of 8.34, which meant it was in front at both the official markers. Yet anyone noting that sectional time might think stewards were talking nonsense.
And there is another even more important factor. Anyone reading a future formguide would assume the dog is brilliant early, yet it is far from it. The dog’s sectional history shows it had averaged (in Warragul equivalent) a time of 8.72 and the best it had ever done was 8.50. For the subject race, more informative running numbers would have been something like 8311. That would have told readers exactly how the race was run.
In a future race where it has to battle its way out of a middle box it would be highly unlikely to run such a sectional time again. More likely it would strike trouble getting through the traffic.
Whatever reason our masters had for changing the system, it does not pass the road test. Like the convoluted GRNSW formguide, which is now becoming the dominant version across the country, it fails the KISS principle. And it can be misleading.
Let’s go a bit further than that. These concepts and formats are developed inside state authorities where, generally speaking, the staff are not allowed to bet. Consequently, they do not use the product of their efforts in the real world. It all ends up as a “it would be a good idea if …” process, which is fraught with danger. (I should add that the TABs do much the same thing).
Far better to start with what the customers need and work your way back. The reverse direction is never a success.