Just when you thought you had seen it all in the Sunshine State, they have done it again. Racing Queensland has just announced that TattBet’s stranglehold over the local tote licence is up for grabs when it’s current license expires in July.
RQ says it is looking for proposals from wagering operators to “submit their vision for wagering growth … through innovation, customer development and greater promotion” by the end of February. That’s all very well, but consider some related points.
1. RQ does not issue betting licenses. That’s the government’s responsibility. Why has RQ made the announcement? And why did it come from the CEO, not the much-criticised Chairman?
2. It implies that the tote can supply the necessary impetus to an industry that has numerous internal problems that are holding back development. The cart seems located before the horse.
3. RQ itself makes almost no effort to stimulate growth, other than its peculiar “Werunasone” campaign which tells participants to be nice to each other. That’s unlikely to help much.
4. Field sizes and quality are getting worse in all codes, but certainly in greyhounds, which now almost never fill all the boxes in its major Thursday night slot.
5. TattsBet turnover is consistently declining, with Queensland and Tasmania contributions trending worst. Its tote product is therefore noncompetitive in an era when punters can easily access a range of other operators.
6. All codes, including greyhounds, are being managed by industry insiders, a policy which has failed miserably over the last two decades, and which has generally been discarded elsewhere.
7. The mind boggles at what might happen if TattsBet were to lose its Queensland licence but still had to persevere with its NT, SA and Tasmania business. In that event, the end product would be virtually unusable.
To its credit, RQ has apparently realised that the current modus operandi is a dead duck and needs revitalisation, but only so far as the tote is concerned. Still, that’s a good start and also may serve to shake up incumbent operators elsewhere, even though they all have long term tenure.
However, the concept of someone else taking over from TattsBet is barely realistic, given its wide spread of betting shops and the like across the state, and elsewhere. Possession is virtually nine points of the law, even though monopolies like the TABs produce many negatives. Anyway, given TattsBet’s, Queensland’s and Tasmania’s parlous financial positions, it is almost a national emergency.
There is only one possible saviour for Queensland and its sister states and that is the prospect of creating a national betting pool, after which the size of local pools will no longer be so critical.
So let’s hope some interesting ideas emerge.
MONEY THROWN AWAY – AGAIN
It was a funny night at Warragul last Sunday for the Cup heats. Three favourites won well, including Black Magic Opal and new record-holder Walk Hard, and three lost. Every winner either jumped in front or got a saloon passage along the rails when others got tangled up.
Actually, that’s the reason it is difficult to bet on Warragul’s 460m trip – there is just too much interference going into the first turn. Something about the track’s configuration has never been right. It’s something GRV and others need to study more carefully in order to achieve cleaner running.
But that’s not the big thing. The staging of the Cup heats at an oddball time, like other Cup series before it in Victoria (eg Horsham, Cranbourne), invariably costs the industry big money. Shifting away from a club’s standard slot is always risky. People get used to patronising their favourite tracks and can get lost in the backwash when a different time is chosen. Of course, Warragul’s main Tuesday night slot is not a bed of roses from a turnover viewpoint, but Sunday night has to be the pits. People have knocked off mentally by that time of the week and obviously prefer to spend time with the family, go to church, or whatever.
If you compare the takings with the previous average-fair meeting at Warragul on its normal Tuesday night, here’s what you would find in the average Win pools.
Previously Cup Heats Change
VicTAB $14,662 $12,336 -15.9%
NSWTAB $6,265 $4,626 -35.4%
In other words, including the exotics, Australian turnover was down by well over $100,000, compared with what might have been expected if Warragul had stayed on Tuesday. That’s money lost forever, and without real justification.
Race schedulers might have considered the need to put a five day gap between heats and final (on the following Friday) but, even then, there are two further points to consider; first, five days is a bare minimum between major races, especially if any of the finalists need work done on them and, second, in the normal course of events any extra Warragul meetings are typically scheduled all over the week, not necessarily Friday – indeed, almost never Friday. Any number of combinations would have been better than what was chosen. Whatever the idea was, it failed on every count.
Aside from that, promotion of one of the better nights of the year – many top sprinters were engaged – was almost non-existent, as evidenced by the appalling ratings given the meeting in NSW. Moreover, the night of the heats is usually going to be more attractive financially than the night of the final – ie six good races versus one – so the heats should have been given at least equal pride of place.
It was no way to run a business.