THE WEDNESDAY WHINGE has a new look but won’t be dispensing with the theme and focus on the THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY side of what is happening in racing. The Whinge will continue to provide an opportunity for The Cynics to Have Their Say. Thanks again for your support for the most read column on this website and one of the most read on racing websites in the country. Our popularity continues to grow despite the bagging it cops from some high profile officials, especially in Queensland, who cannot cope with constructive criticism of any kind. We encourage supporters – and critics – to continue to contribute but plan to restrict the Whinge to less than 10 of the best items each week. Our message to those who continually bag us is simple: IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT YOU READ, THEN DON’T REVISIT THE WHINGE.



STAN POLLARD of MELBOURNE has his say on the war that continues to wage between some high profile identities in the Victorian industry which has seen Racing Minister Martin Pakula intervene and call for a meeting of powerbrokers:

‘IT’S the new popular past-time in Victorian racing – it’s called Bailey Bashing.

Danny Nikolic turned it into an art form. Peter and Sarah Moody followed his lead. And now a number of no-names, like Brodie Arhnold, have joined the fray.

Let me make a few things clear at the start. I am no fan of Dan Nikolic but I have always admired Peter Moody. That was up until he hit this hurdle – like many trainers do – but struggled to cope with what most believe was a modest penalty in the circumstances.

Take this from someone who has been around racing for much longer than you Big Pete – and has probably been down as many dry gullies, been a bit of a scallywag over the years and hopefully has finally learnt from his mistakes.

‘Dan the Man’ will never learn from his mistakes. It will always be someone else's fault. He seems to have a giant chip on his shoulder against those responsible for administering the Rules of Racing. Relicensing him to ride under a Stewards’ Panel headed by Terry Bailey has the ingredients of a massive disaster. It simply won’t work.

There was however hope for Peter Moody – until he visited almost as many centres around the country as the Melbourne Cup – and started to listen to some of the drunken morons at his guest speaking appearances who were telling him what he wanted to hear.

Instead of giving Bailey, Brown and co a blast at every opportunity and inciting imbeciles in the audience to support your cause the time has come Pete to ‘pull your head in’ before you lose the support base you once had. It’s not those sharing a drink and a laugh at these functions which you are well paid to attend who will determine your ultimate fate but those sitting back and watching your performance at the moment, shaking their heads in dismay.

Story goes you are a very popular guest speaker and do a lot of fine work for charity – in demand from Warrnambool to Darwin and probably across to Perth – but that will eventually wear thin. You can only bag so many people for so long. It’s worth a laugh the first time around but after that becomes a bit boring.

There will always be bloodstock companies, corporate bookmakers, media groups and a multitude of race clubs who will see the value in having a guest of your popularity on their books. It’s probably fortunate that you only have a few months left to serve on the sidelines because that’s about as long as it will last in its current format.

Take a tip and go back to what you do best – training horses – and stop waging this battle of bashing Bailey with the support of industry boofheads who you seem to believe have some credibility that over a beer or four at the Emerald or wherever – hidden away from the racing spotlight – they might like to think they have. But when it comes to standing up and beeing counted, will they be there for you?

Just take a look at the Brady Who incident. The minute the blow torch was applied he apparently took some serious career advice and was keen – on the surface at least – to mend fences with Terry Bailey. In the scheme of things that happened during the time that Moods spent on the sideline, the Melbourne Racing Club CEO will be remembered solely for his alleged mind-numbing throwaway line during a familiar function blast at Racing Victoria officialdom by the man who moulded the career of Black Caviar.

As that well read Racing Bitch out of Hong Kong wrote (rather than me rave on, I will reproduce his sentiments which many of us agree with wholeheartly):

‘Arnhold’s alleged ‘Mr Fixit’ moment smacks of what is the norm in Third World dictatorial political systems where strong arm tactics are used to ‘fix things up’. These days, it could even be applied to America – and the thuggery in American politics.

Brodie Arnhold’s lack of judgment in choosing to attend an event where ‘industry bahsers’ were conspicuous in their numbers- and Moody would have expcted to continue to trot out his tiresome, cliché ridden bitter, and olften personalized tirade at officialdom, exposes some glaring weaknesses, which regrettably, all too frequently in the DNA of many Australian racing executives.

If that wasn’t enough scandal in Victorian racing’s weekly soap opera and successful attempts at trashing its brand and image, enter – of dear God no – Victorian Chief Steward Terry Bailey into the fray.

While it is clear that the relentless personal vindictive and venomous attacks and baseless rumours about his personal life would have tested the resolve of some of the mentally toughest humans in society, last Wednesday’s events penetrated Bailey’s tough steely resolve. So much so that Bailey allowed himself to descend into the gutter that has become the home of some of his vociferous critics. Bailey made some extremely injudicious and provocative comments, which, in itself, could have booked him a date with the Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

The bigger issue is how Bailey has been allowed to continually front the media to explain and defend every Integrity issue and policy. It happens in NO other sport – the NRL, Cricket, AFL, Rugby Union, Soccer, Tennis and even backyard tiddlywinks. The role of the umpire, referee, steward – in fact any person who officiates in sport- is confined strictly to the sports field, and in this instance, the racetrack. Integrity Policy issues and commentary are the domain of the Chief Executive or a very senior member of the management team. Terry Bailey is neither. Dare we say it, the Chief Executive of Racing Victoria is Bernard Saundry, and we say his name in as an inaudible whisper for fear of embarrassment. Saundry, aka “the Plodder” should be the one face and voice of Victorian racing in his supposed leadership position. He isn’t.

Victorian racing has to wait four and a half long months before he parachutes out of his role. To use a political analogy from the time Bob Hawke successfully challenged Bill Hayden for leadership of the Labour Party and led it to victory, even the proverbial “drover’s dog” could do a better job in Victoria.’

As usual, the Racing Bitch – love him or hate him – summed it up perfectly – at least in my opinion and that of many I have spoken to.

Unfortunately, it seems, the ‘industry bashers’ will not stop in Victoria until they force Bailey out. He and his family have tolerated so much to date, it would be a sad fate if he were to now opt for a safer and probably more highly paid job overseas simply because the situation where he wants to work has become unbearable. Our message is simple: Stick it out mate. Racing in Victoria needs you. If these blokes get someone they want as Chief Steward – who won’t rock the boat – it will be Groundhog Day for the industry and the punters in the best racing state in the land.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: I make no apology for being a fan of Terry Bailey. In fact I believe he is the best steward in Australia. It seems that most of the dislike directed at him stems from the Cobalt cases. What is either not understood or overlooked by those sitting in judgment on this serious issue is that the system involving stewards’ findings in Victoria is totally different to other States. For example, all the other States have a system whereby the stewards ‘detect’ what they see as the commission of an offence, sit in judgment and hand out a penalty. But in Victoria, stewards detect any alleged breaches of the Rules of Racing, gather the evidence and in the major cases, such as positives to Cobalt, the evidence is then placed before and considered by a Judge, similar to a course case. Those calling for the scalp of Bailey if the Cobalt appeals are upheld are ignorant of how the system works in Victoria. It wasn’t the RVL stewards who found the Cobalt cowboys guilty. It was an independent court. If the original decision is overturned by a second Judge with a different understanding of the Rules of Racing, why blame the RVL stewards? They didn’t find these trainers guilty. They didn’t hand down any sentences. All they did was present the evidence in the same manner that police do in criminal or court cases. But that obviously would be conveniently overlooked by the Bailey bashers who seem to have one mission – replace him with a Chief Steward who isn’t as tough or worse still doesn’t protect the interests of the punters as well.  

Racing Minister Martin Pakula on Tuesday voiced his support for Racing Victoria, saying the integrity division had done "an excellent job" during difficult times. 

Interestingly, PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Racing Minister Martin Pakula said that the sniping at Bailey and Brown must stop.

"Too much of people prosecuting their own agendas," he said.

He said the claims of critics of Bailey and Brown, who maintain the pair should be sacked if they don't win a case, would be like the Director of Public Prosecutions  running one case through the courts, suffering a defeat and all involved being sacked.

Many believe that the minister's words were directed at one member of mainstream media and an outer suburban-based racing website that have been highly critical of Bailey and Brown.

Mr Pakula said that he would convene all of those involved in racing from RVL to the three metropolitan clubs and country racing to work out any differences they had.



THIS is the incredible story of 74-year-old Guiseppe ‘Joe’ Caruso as told by TERRY BUTTS to readers of his ‘SILKS & SADDLES’ column in the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER.

Of Italian descent, Mr Caruso – like so many of his ilk – is a recreational punter.

He was in hospital for a hip replacement three weeks ago and his son, Robert – also a punter who regularly shares bets with his dad – placed $100 each-way on two horses in the last race at Doomben. They finished first and second. The winner, Frequendly, was $71 and the runner-up, Misery, was $31.

The following Monday a representative of corporate betting agency, Crownbet, rang ‘old Joe’ – in hospital, mind you – and asked what bets he had placed the previous Saturday on his account.

Why – you might well ask?

Mr Caruso is an old man, not in the greatest state of health, and was really not certain of all the bets that son Robert had placed – nor did he care.

Believe it or not, Crownbet subsequently closed ‘old Joe’s’ account and conveniently refused to pay the winnings of roughly $10,550.

The reason?

Crowbet claims their customers’ accounts cannot be used by a ‘third party’ – that’s the wording even though the only other person who used the account was ‘Joe’s’ son Robert.

It is little wonder the corporate bookmaking agencies – including some of the biggest ones – are on the nose in this country.

Not that the Caruso’s – with a little help from some angry friends – were going to take this lying down. Lawyers were briefed and letters drafted to hit the desks of Racing Victoria, the North Territory Gaming Commission and no doubt the office of Nick Xenaphon, the South Australian Senator who is the enemy at the gate of the corporate bookies.

Yes, there is more to come from this diabolical treatment (or abuse) of the rights of punters in this era where the corporate bookies are virtually taking over.

This is another urgent call for Government to act to remove, replace or completely overhaul the totally inept Northern Territory Gaming Commission that currently control the multi-million dollar industry.

The question that Senator Xenaphon and others need answered is why aren’t these corporates licensed by the States in which they work – just like the on-course bookies all over the country – and subject to the same rules and regulations?

That might just seem some changes to the somewhat unscrupulous lure of ‘supposed’ free bets to the unsuspecting – and prevent agents from ringing and disturbing punters in their hospital beds.

HOOFNOTE: THIS story does have a happy ending. Before his ‘Silks & Saddles’ column went to press Terry Butts contacted Crownbet to ask for an explanation. That didn’t arrive until the item was published. After some procrastinating Crownbet agreed to pay Joe and Robert Caruso the money that was owed to them for the successful bets. Full marks to them for doing the right thing but should this have required the intervention of someone from the racing media – who once worked as a bookmaker himself – but as a turf writer was prepared to take a corporate agency owned by one of Australia’s richest men to task about their greedy, heartless and ruthless attitude to small punters who dare to have a win with them.



KEVIN PRATT of MELBOURNE has his say on the RIDE GUIDE debate:

‘IT was interesting to read an article in The Australian by Patrick Smith, whose criticism of racing is well documented, concerning the controversy engulfing the proposed Ride Guide service which jockeys are portraying as the new ‘punters’ pal’.

Smith hit the nail on the head when he suggested: ‘Racing is an industry big on thinking small. The fate of the betting innovation Ride Guide is distressing proof of that.’

He went on to say that stewards in Victoria and NSW had ‘no other reasonable choice but to shut down the service’ or ‘they would have been in breach of their duty of care for the sport they police.’

Terry Bailey and Marc Van Gestel, the Chief Stewards in Victoria and NSW, initially had no problem with the concept - said to be the brainchild of Victoria jockey Chris Symons. That was until their learnt that the service was sponsored by corporate bookmaking giant Ladbrokes and that to access it punters had to be a client and log into their network.

What amazed most in the racing industry was that Ladbrokes was prepared to pay up to $2.5 million for the service, depending on its popularity, with that money to be largely paid to the Jockeys Trust and a percentage going to Unscriptd, the sports company that packages Ride Guide.

On the surface the service is not much difference to what occurs with racing media outlets throughout the country most days of the week. The difference is jockeys interviewed on the prospects of their rides are not paid for their time. But more importantly any punter or person interested in racing has access to that broadcast information and don’t have to be a client and log into their account with a betting agency.

Whether what Ladbrokes had agreed to pay was going to a worthy cause in the Jockeys Trust or not, there was a perception that it involved kickbacks to participating riders not to mention the fallout from this which has again damaged the image of racing in Victoria.’



CHARLIE CARSON of MELBOURNE sent this contribution:

‘SOME of the garbage that has been spoken during this Ride Guide argument has got right up the nose of a lot of people in racing, especially the suggestion that jockeys can lay claim to Intellectual Property rights when it comes to the horses they are riding.

Despite the contention from their No 1 spin doctor, the jockeys’ ‘man for all seasons’ Des O’Keefe – and the veiled threat of legal action to have Ride Guide up and running with one of the biggest bookies in Ladbrokes – surely the IP of horses belongs firstly to the owner who pay the bills and then the trainers who prepare them for races.

These ‘little big men’ of the racing game could be accused of ‘sheer arrogance’ in not consulting the owners and trainers. One could argue that all the jockeys do is arrive (on occasions) to ride them work and then to partner the horse on race day. Most of the hard work has already been done. Any ownership rights to information concerning the horse surely belongs to those paying the bill and I guess they are entitled to be upset if the jockey is being paid to provide privileged information to ‘private’ clients of Ladbrokes about its chances.

I heard leading jockey Craig Williams tell RSN about how the Racing Channel in England pays for interviews. That may well be the case. But then you have a situation like Hong Kong where jockeys who provide tips (like happened to Chris Munce) can wind up in jail. It all depends on the jurisdiction and its rules.

It would seem that the bottom line with Ride Guide is the current embarrassing situation could have been averted had there been some forward thinking from the media arm of Racing Victoria in

At least that was the perception in an interesting piece in The Australian (by Patrick Smith) which read in part:

‘To find the villain in all of this we can immediately put a line through the stewards. They are in charge of the sport's integrity and thus the Ride Guide link with a bookmaker was untenable. Put a line through (Chris) Symons, too. He had the intellect and enthusiasm to bring Ride Guide to life. Unscriptd might have been naive in embracing a bookmaker as a partner, but after nearly two years of trying to sell the service it was an offer too good from which to walk away. Don't blame the jockeys.

They went to grab a bucket of money, a lot of which would have eased the plight of their peers struck down by injury. It might also have allowed for more staff to help an overwhelmingly understaffed Jockey Association.

No, the villain here is Racing Victoria's broadcast arm Owned by Channel Seven and Racing Victoria, the broadcaster was given a very early look at the Ride Guide product and sources tell us it was abrupt and abrasive in the way it dismissed the proponents of the service. More fool

The Racing Victoria broadcaster is not yet a year old. It was launched in August 2015 as a venture for the unattached, the curious, the novice and the professional. It had a licence to be innovative, creative, brash, brave and educational. Today, edging towards its first birthday, is none of these. It is a predictable, boring, sometimes inarticulate, warehouse for mostly male commentators some of whom speak a dialect only understandable to those who cannot string two words together.

Only to them does always make sense. could have been pioneering for once in its brief existence and bought the Ride Guide service and made it available on its website, which is informative but a long way short of zany. Or Racing Victoria and Racing NSW could have bought the service and on-sold the product as part of their race fields arrangements.

For a sport and business that would fall over without the strict monitoring undertaken by stewards, the racing community is blase to the point of reckless when it comes to issues of integrity and compliance. That no one stressed to Symons early in discussions that any link with a betting operator would automatically disqualify Ride Guide is disappointing and surprising.

The moment Bailey, who was on leave when negotiations with Unscriptd and Ladbrokes became serious, effectively ruled out Ride Guide came when he found out late last week of the betting operator's role.

The lack of natural zeal to protect racing's good name is dangerously low. Racing Victoria is investigating comments made last Wednesday at a charity event at a hotel. Former trainer Peter Moody was the star attraction and in an all-embracing interview said that he would not come back to training until Bailey and Racing Victoria's head of integrity Dayle Brown were no longer at the organisation.

Allegedly that was followed by a remark from Melbourne Racing Club chief executive Brodie Arnhold to the effect that the removal of Bailey and Brown could be arranged. Arnhold has told the Herald Sun that he could not remember whether he had made comments about Bailey or not. If Arnhold did make such an insensitive and inflammatory comment - a gunman fired shots into the front door of Bailey's home last year - he should resign or be sacked immediately.

There is a group of shortsighted racing identities driven to try to loosen the grip Bailey, Van Gestel and other stewards have on the code. Rather than applaud the stewards' determination to uphold the good name of Australian racing they appear to want to weaken the standards Bailey and co are working hard to establish. In simple terms, they want to run racing themselves and must be watched carefully and cynically.

No wonder Bailey gets frustrated. No wonder Symons thinks he had the full support of racing executives. Integrity goes around at 20-1 and easing every day of the week.’




HORSES gaining an unfair advantage at the start of a race will be declared non-starters and disqualified under an Australian Rule of Racing to be introduced next Monday.

DARYL TIMMS reports for the HERALD-SUNthat the current rule focuses only on horses denied a fair start, where stewards have the power to void the race.

The power to declare a horse that gains an unfair advantage a non-runner would:

ALLOWit to be removed from the placings.

RETURNbets on the horse, and order win/place deductions.

REMOVEthe undesirable option of voiding a race, which disadvantages all parties.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey, who pushed for the introduction of the rule at a stewards’ conference 18 months ago, said there had been incidents where a horse had broken through the gates just before the starter let the field go.

“This now gives us the power to declare a non-runner and give deductions, and while it may have an effect on the betting, it won’t have any effect on prizemoney and so forth,’’ he said.

Bailey recalled one of Darren Weir’s horses breaking through the gates just before they opened a couple of years ago.

He said the horse won by a “whisker”, but it was debatable whether it should have kept the race.

“The stewards were reluctant to call the whole race void,” Bailey said.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but this is an additional tool to overcome it.”

The rule comes in on the first day of the new season.




WHAT happens when the industry in Queensland is confronted with an appointment that some are far from pleased with?

The rumour mill goes into overdrive and the identity appointed to the position is the subject of malicious stories designed to discredit him or her.

We have seen it happen on numerous occasions over the years involving all sorts of appointees. The latest victim is Kane Ashby, the former Victorian steward who was head of the Compliance Team (better known as fence jumpers) in that State.

Ashby was a highly qualified appointment to the new role of Internal Reviewer with the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission. It didn’t take long for the white-anting to start.

When Ashby resigned from the Stewards’ Panel in Victoria – because his wife had taken up a position with the Queensland Government – there were unsubstantiated rumours that he had been stood down over an integrity breach.

Chief Steward Terry Bailey went public defending Ashby who made plenty of industry enemies in the job he did which saw many scalps claimed after being caught illegally treating horses.

Those rumours have resurfaced in Queensland and have lost nothing in the telling since his appointment to QRIC. It seems to suit those who are far from happy about the new Integrity set-up to give them a send around.

In the opinion of many who have followed the industry in Queensland closely over the years the biggest problem in the past has been that stakeholders have embraced those responsible for policing racing who got too close to them.

There are apparently some teething problems with the new Integrity Commission which are being addressed. In the meantime the sooner the right people with the right credentials are appointed to roles like Head of Integrity the sooner this rumour mongering will be put to bed once and for all.



GLEN ANDERSON of GOLD COAST sent this email:

‘I just wanted to endorse a timely reminder by Brad Davidson in the Gold Coast Bulletin for Racing Minister Grace Grace and the Labor Government to start getting serious about industry promises.

After a long drawn out process of making appointments – from a new Board and CEO at Racing Queensland to an Integrity Commissioner and hopefully soon a new Head of Integrity, action at the station is long overdue.

All three codes have waited far too long for major infrastructure projects and upgrades. High on the agenda should be a major greyhound racing facility for south-east Queensland; what the future holds for Albion Park as a harness venue; and gallops upgrades in various centres spearheaded by Gold Coast and perhaps Ipswich.

I must admit there are some niggling doubts in the back of my mind when it comes to Ipswich and pouring more money into it as a gallops venue. Might I be bold enough to suggest that the future there could be a new greyhound complex?’

EDITOR’S NOTE: FOR those who missed it here is the GOLD COAST BULLETIN column item by BRAD DAVIDSONthat the above email refers to:

IT’S time the State Government gets serious about helping Queensland racing.

With a Racing Queensland board finally in place and a chief executive (Eliot Forbes) starting next month, Racing Minister Grace Grace must now ensure Government funds put aside for racing are finally released for a host of infrastructure projects in Queensland.

The industry is sick and tired of waiting and so they should be. The money is there to fund most of these projects but bureaucracy and a lack of care for racing from both sides of politics means several projects have been stalled for years.

The Gold Coast greyhound and harness racing clubs have been homeless since 2008 and 2013 respectively, the Gold Coast Turf Club track upgrade was set down for 2014 and a new Albion Park grandstand was first flagged back in 2008.

Then there’s the Ipswich Turf Club redevelopment which has been on the agenda for about eight years, yet none of these projects have even started. There are other projects in a similar position too.

With the next Queensland election not scheduled for more than 12 months, Grace must start acting now before all these projects are delayed even further due to red tape when election time comes around again.

Grace has done a lot right in her first eight months as Racing Minister but ultimately she will be judged upon by her ability, or inability, to get a host of overdue projects off the ground in the next 12-18 months. The clock is ticking Grace.




AN on-screen game of Snake was about as sophisticated as the mobile phone got in 2005, the year Matthew Tripp flew into Darwin to buy Sportsbet.

JACK KERR reports for THE SATURDAY PAPERthat for a quarter of a million dollars, the bookmaking entrepreneur acquired the relatively obscure company trying to turn on Australians to betting online.

If it seemed like a long shot, then it was one that paid off handsomely. When he sold Sportsbet a few years later, to Irish betting giant Paddy Power, there was a smartphone in nearly every hand or pocket and the company was worth $380 million.

And it was no longer a pioneering start-up. From Sportsbet and Tripp’s new venture, CrownBet, to international brands such as William Hill and Bet365, a total of 15 online betting companies are now licensed through the Northern Territory. Even niche services such as the Weather Lottery have a licence and post office box in Darwin, the city that has fast become the gambling industry’s Australian capital.

It’s been a case of everything coming together at the right time for the industry. In 2008 – a year after Apple released its first iPhone, the technology in which online betting is easier than ever – a ruling in the High Court cleared the path for gambling houses to operate and advertise across state borders.

With Territory governments willing to work with the industry, a betting tax haven emerged.

“The reason they’re in Darwin is not for the lifestyle,” gambling researcher Dr Charles Livingstone tells The Saturday Paper. “It’s because of the relatively low tax regime.”

Thanks to legislation that caps money owed to the NT Treasury at $550,000 per operator, per year, the multibillion-dollar industry pumps just a few million dollars in tax into Territory coffers each financial year.

When I contact the Territory’s Department of Business for details of the industry’s broader contribution to the local economy, I am told those figures are under review. But sports bookmakers, of both the online and traditional shopfront variety, employ about 300 Territorians throughout the year, whether casual, part-time or permanently, the department said.

Sportsbet, which employs about 70 Territorians – about 10 per cent of the company’s national workforce – is the online industry’s biggest contributor to the local jobs market.

A recent search for betting jobs on sites such as Seek produced seven pages of results, from which just four ads were for positions in the Territory. One was for a hospitality role at the Darwin Cup. The remainder were for positions at call centres run by Sportsbet and Bet365 at the Fannie Bay racetrack.

“You can have your head office anywhere, as long as the server taking bets is located in Darwin,” Livingstone says. “They can set their markets and have all their high-flying staff in Sydney or Melbourne or wherever.”

For such relatively small economic gains, the Territory is facilitating an industry whose social costs run deep, and all without having to clean up the mess, its critics say.

“While we recognise the Territory is keen on accessing income, it also is a citizen of Australia, and would be looking, we would hope, to protect the interests of all Australians,” says Ross Womersley, CEO of the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS).

At a time when the Federal Government has been targeting the evils of the unregulated offshore betting market, via the O’Farrell review, SACOSS believes something similar is being allowed to flourish in the north of Australia.

SACOSS calls the NT a virtual tax haven and, as the O’Farrell review makes clear, the emergence of this local online betting market has largely stopped Australians from punting in the actual offshore betting market.

Womersley wants the current system to be changed, and SACOSS is campaigning for bets to be taxed in the state they are laid, rather than in the territory where the operator is licensed.

“If one jurisdiction is taking all the income and the others are missing out, then we’re not going to be in a situation where we can provide [assistance for problem gamblers] equally,” he says.

Livingstone is unconvinced taxing gamblers does anything more than increase government’s reliance on said revenue, though he does agree with the general sentiment of SACOSS’s position.

“The cost is being externalised to other jurisdictions,” he says. “It’s not plaguing their people, by and large.”

Tabcorp – Australia’s largest wagering operation, with a monopoly on walk-in betting shops in New South Wales and Victoria – is also concerned.

“Why is the community getting so little out of the Northern Territory-licensed corporate bookmakers?” Tabcorp chairman Paula Dwyer asked at October’s AGM, adding that her company pays – dollar for dollar – 28 times what those based in the territory do. “There has to be a more equitable structure in relation to the payment of wagering taxes.”

But these are comparisons Sportsbet rejects emphatically.

“Any suggestion that the NT is a tax haven is completely false and ill-informed,” a spokesman for the operator said. “[Taxes for companies such as Tabcorp] are paid in return for operating retail monopolies … No such monopoly is available online.”

The NT’s Director-General of Licensing, Cindy Bravos, said the Territory’s tax rates recognise that sports bookmaking is a “high-turnover, big-risk business with narrow operating margins”.

“Accordingly, the NT Government has set realistic tax rates to enable the bookmakers to offer fair prices to punters whilst encouraging and keeping businesses in the Territory.”

And Gaming Minister Peter Styles denies accusations the Territory is a soft touch when it comes to regulation.

“[We offer] quicker response to operational issues,” he said in April, after legislation to attract betting exchanges such as BetFair to the Top End was introduced to the NT parliament.

“This does not mean the Northern Territory is a pushover when it comes to approval process, but our smaller size allows us to move with greater speed.”

Sportsbet also stands behind the Territory’s regulations, saying it “is at the forefront of harm minimisation and responsible gambling measures” with the country’s “highest standards of probity, responsible gambling, advertising and consumer protection”.

The Territory is still considered the wild west by its detractors, however, even after the introduction of a stricter code of conduct for online wagering operators this year.

Punters have told of credit being offered without the most basic risk assessments being made. Betting houses have bought or swapped lists of clients who’ve walked away, with the intention of luring them back into the game.

Then there are the inducements. One high-spending problem gambler said he was given free tickets to a corporate suite at a major racing event in Sydney, where he was wined and dined by the operator he punted with. “It was as if I was a business client.”

While the Federal Government does have the power to regulate online gambling, it has so far appeared reluctant to assert itself too strongly in the area. Its key piece of legislation, 2001’s Interactive Gambling Act, is widely considered to be out of date. Yet Canberra’s interest was piqued after Norfolk Island – another Australian territory offering cheap licences – cosied up with Citibet, the world’s biggest illegal bookmaker.

Norfolk Island has an even more attractive tax set-up than the NT, charging operators a maximum of $300,000. While that has drawn criticism from the likes of SACOSS, it was the Island’s dealings with Citibet that earned the ire of the racing industry.

“It is beyond belief that an island 1400 kilometres off the coast of Australia … can make decisions that affect a multimillion-dollar business with 200,000 employees,” Racing Australia chief Peter McGauran told The Australian in April.

“Norfolk Island has done something that no one else in the world has done, and that is effectively license the world’s biggest illegal bookmaker.”

It must now get Australia’s approval before giving out any more licenses.

With Nick Xenophon’s growing influence, this new Parliament may be forced to tackle online sports betting head-on. The South Australian Senator has already renewed his call for a ban on gambling advertising.

He’s previously labelled the Territory’s tax regime “an absolute gift” to bookmakers who “must be laughing all the way to their offshore bank accounts”, and has called for tighter regulations, such as a ban on credit for punters, saying online sports betting has “turbocharged the risks of problem gambling”.

Without movement in Canberra, however, the issue is unlikely to cause a ripple in the lead-up to next month’s Territory election. The longest-serving Independent in the NT Parliament, Gerry Wood, told The Saturday Paper he’s more concerned about the grip of the pokies industry on the Territory Government.

The amount spent on pokies around the country does dwarf that spent on sports betting, and by a considerable margin. Despite its high profile, just 2.3 per cent of Australia’s gambling spending goes towards sports betting, the Australian Wagering Council says. More than half goes into the pokies.

But what Livingstone fears is that this will change as a younger generation – who wouldn’t be seen dead at a pokies venue, but for whom sports betting has been normalised – gets older.

“Once they’ve got their hooks into you, they will not let go,” he says. And unlike on the pokies, you can lose the home in one foul punt.


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Getaway & Go Racing &
Day at the Races FREE Ratings
BN: 55127167

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