IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS points to the all-tote success story of Hong Kong racing when questioning why Australia needs corporate bookmakers.

He argues that they are destroying the industry, sending their profits off-shore, refusing to bet like the on-course bookmakers are forced to and calls for the establishment of a national tote to combat them.

Butts is also critical of the lack of knowledge of the Racing Minister Steve Dickson and condemns, like many others in the industry in Queensland, the extravagant waste of money on a new track at Toowoomba, suggesting the only ones in favor of the redevelopment live in Dixon Square.

Here is the Butts column:

 

BET365 CAME TO OUR SHORES WITH ALL GUNS BLAZING BUT FIRED LIKE A FIZZER

IN the very same week that the Hong Kong racing season ended – boasting near record betting turnover and attendances – off-course betting conglomerate, Bet365, the English-based bookie that came to our shores last year with all guns blazing, reported a $36.2 million loss.

But the company is unperturbed and confident that it will be profitable.

Of course there is little sympathy for the bookie.

And it must be mentioned – its main competitor, the Irish-owned Sportsbet- is expected to have revenue of $261 million this calendar year.

So what’s the difference?

Simple – Hong Kong refuses point blank to entertain bookies.

Obviously they are not needed over there.

Nor are they needed here – at least the off-course variety.

And Hong Kong racing is absolutely booming.

On the last day of the season last week turnover was $200 million from which the Chinese Government received a tidy $24 million and the club retained $8 million for expenses and charities distribution.

Government actually received $2.5 billion all up for the season. Yes that’s billion.

But while Hong Kong racing booms- Australia burns.

 

THOSE OUTSIDE DIXON SQUARE RATE NEW TOOWOOMBA TRACK ‘A WASTE OF MONEY’

RACING in this country, due largely to gross mismanagement (Sky/TVN deals and Tattsbet negotiations) and decisions such as Damien Oliver’s slap on the wrist for an offence most jockeys would expect a minimum of five years, Toowoomba’s new track, Albion Park etc) has plunged the industry into depths of mediocrity.

Our tote betting turnover has declined markedly and there is a distinct lack of confidence among stakeholders, particularly the smaller breeders, the smaller trainers and the battling jockeys.

They are not surviving – in fact being trodden on – and it has much to do with the inequitable distribution of prize-money, which is a chapter itself.

Clubs are struggling. Racecourses all over the country are wearing out, most in desperate need of repair, and none more than Townsville’s Cluden course.

Yet whilst the Townsville Turf Club was forced to move the rail out seven metres for the second day of its Winter Carnival on Tuesday to help protect the surface for the final three days, work started on Toowoomba’s multi-million new track – money that quite simply should never have been granted.

And everyone outside Dixon Square agrees.

 

AS A RACING MINISTER STEVE DICKSON MAKES A GOOD CARAVAN PARK OPERATOR

FRANKLY it’s a disgrace and little wonder so many devoted men and women are getting out disgusted and disillusioned.

Everyone it seems except the Racing Minister Steve Dickson. And the question here is: What has he done?

Did you see his media release last week about the future of Toowoomba racing?

Words, one could suggest, from a man who simply has no idea. Never has had – and it’s a bit too late for him to start.

The most annoying aspect is that the LNP had a readymade Racing Minister in Ray Stevens but one day  he voted in the party room against Tim Nicholls (so the story goes) and that was the end of his aspirations of being Racing Minister in the fickle world of politics.

Instead the industry wound up with a caravan park operator as Racing Minister.

Fair dinkum!

 

OVERSEAS-OWNED BETTING CARTELS ARE THE CANE TOADS OF OZ RACING

BUT back to Hong Kong and the unwanted overseas-owned betting cartels that are raping our racing.

They are, without doubt, the cane toads of the racing game in this country and it is high time administrators acted with much more vigor to curtail their activities.

An obvious start would be the establishment of a National Tote – not dissimilar to what operates in Hong Kong.

This country does not need the corporate bookies that have come and conquered with the blessing of governments to the great detriment of our industry.

Obviously a two per cent turnover tax that the bookies fought so viciously against is not enough, especially if Sportsbet can announce a $260 million profit this year – a profit that is simply the accumulated losses of Australian punters betting on Australian products.

And these profits go off-shore.

That has to be stopped.

And turnover tax should be increased immediately. It is a no brainer.

A national tote would immediately end the corporate bookies massive advantage of offering the best of all the Australian tote dividends.

It is their best tool for wooing the smaller punters – and that is just who they target – the so-called mugs.

With a national tote this attraction would be totally negated.

 

DARWIN-BASED BOARD THAT GOVERNS THE CORPORATES IS REGARDED ‘A JOKE’

AS a matter of urgency governments and racing administrators must act.

And they might first take a look at the make-up of the Darwin-based board that governs the corporates.

The latest ‘classic’ was agreeing with the corporates that they can choose who they want to bet with them and limit their wagers, while on-course bookies, who are being forced out the gate, are compelled to bet to lose a minimum of $1,000. How crazy is that?

Just last week a well-known Brisbane gambler tried to have $500 on a $1.60 favorite at the dogs with Bet365, the self-proclaimed biggest bookie in the world.

The punter, who was losing $2,500 at the time, was told he could have $42 on the odds-on yapper. Can you believe that?

The punter says he has written a letter of complaint to the Northern Territory Gaming Commission but is not expecting any result, given previous decisions that he says invariably come down in favor of the corporates.

Yes, it seems they are a protected species in the Territory. But cane toads aren’t.

Funny that.

 

JURY OUT ON NEW CAIRNS TRACK AS CLUB HEADS TOWARDS ITS ANNUALS

THE jury might still be out on the condition of the new track at Cairns which raced in rainy weather on Saturday and will again host a meeting on July 28 just two weeks before the annuals.

There has been much conjecture. Some say the grass is too short. Some say there is too much kick-back which offers a bias to leaders. Some say it is ‘stuffed’ and one even said it’s “like putting lipstick on a pig”.

But Peter Cullen, one of the few senior riders at Cannon Park on Saturday and a confirmed critic of the track in recent years, reckons “it’s not too bad”.

His assessment should be taken seriously as he has a wealth of experience on country tracks in this area and he is adamant that in spite of the weather last Saturday the track played well.

“It’s not 100 per cent yet but I reckon by carnival time it will be,” Cullen said.

And will Cash Attack (trained by his wife Laurel) be going up for his second tilt at the Cup next month?

You betya.

 

OFFICIALS GEARING FOR TOWNSVILLE CUP ON SATURDAY, JULY 27

BUT first it is the Townsville Cup on July 27.

Visitors have been turning up all week promising to provide the biggest Cup day in years.

A sportsmen’s lunch and barrier draw will kick off  a busy week of social activities on Wednesday July 24 at the RSL club.

Leave the cars at home, they reckon, as it will be a “big one”.

And it follows the traditional Breakfast with the Stars on Wednesday morning where brekkie will be supplied by the club as well as coffee and heart starters on request.

Though he won’t be at the barrier draw on Wednesday it is hoped jockey Chris Munce will be special guest at the  Calcutta on Thursday night at the turf club where last year’s figure of $19,000 is expected to be broken.

Tickets have been selling for weeks. Munce is expected to ride the Ingham-owned Flying Home in the Cup.

Friday is Guineas Day at Cluden that precedes the Broncos-Cowboys game at the unlikely named Smiles Stadium, aka Luna Park.

Then on Saturday the BIG one.

 

COLUMN COURTESY OF TERRY BUTTS AND THE NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, one of Australia's leading rural newspapers.

TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

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