Regulatory changes on the horizon?

Racing punter Richard Irvine has been in the media recently with appearances in the Sydney Morning HeraldToday Tonight and the ABC’s Radio NationalWriting for Fair Wagering Australia and supporting our quest for fairness, Irvine expands on the huge issue of Australian online bookmakers banning winners and betting only losing clients. Could Federal regulation of sports and race betting in Australia be on the horizon?

Media outlets are reporting that Sportsbet have signed a $40 million, 4 year sponsorship deal with Channel 9 to be their wagering partner for their Rugby League coverage. It is interesting Channel 9 are still pushing ahead with having a bookmaker as part of their coverage considering the backlash against Tom Waterhouse last year.

Of course it as all about revenue for Channel 9 and $40 million goes along way to offset the $1.1 billion they paid for the rights to the NRL in 2012. The Sportsbet revenue also comes in handy for the impending float of Nine Entertainment Corp.

Sportsbet and various other bookmakers are determined to become part of our sporting culture because in their opinion they offer an enhanced entertainment experience by giving people the chance to make money whilst supporting their favourite football team. But can Australians really make money off these organisations?

Bookmakers are in the business of selling people the opportunity to make money. If you are shut out by these bookies as soon as you turn a profit (no matter how large that profit is) more consistently than having one or two winning days aren’t they in contempt of their product offering?

So where is the evidence of how ruthless I claim these bookies are? You don’t have to look far.

ABC’s Four Corners did a story in May this year on the public backlash against Tom Waterhouse and his advertising. It was a well-put together, interesting story.

The Ringleader

Cormac Barry, CEO of Sportsbet was interviewed for the story. He painted Sportsbet in a positive light, as if they were the good guys of the bookmaking industry. It was difficult for people who understand the industry implicitly to watch, as we all know there is no more ruthless corporate bookmaker than Sportsbet. I would have loved the interviewer to ask Cormac Barry why profitable punters are shown the door by Sportsbet and only losers are welcome. Of course the interviewer was not aware of this and it was never asked.

Interestingly, Cormac Barry inadvertently admitted the ruthless approach of Sportsbet on Four Corners. Whilst giving reporter, Marian Wilkinson, a tour of Sportsbets plush headquarters trading floor he commented that his team of “analysts” spend their days “monitoring customer behaviour, monitoring customer bets and looking for patterns in their bets”.

This admission by Cormac Barry is actually the modus operandi for virtually all the corporate bookies in Australia. Gone are the days where if you were an analyst for a corporate bookie you would spend your days analysing the odds of a horse or sporting teams chance of winning an event.

Now, due to the reach of the Internet, corporate bookies sit back and copy odds from other betting markets and bookmakers all over the world. They then let all their losing clients bet off those markets.

The analysts then trawl through all bets on these markets looking for punters who back winners or worse still have a bet at the top of the market (where the odds shorten after their bet). When these punters with an edge are found they are shown the door.

The old school skills of bookmaking are lost on the new breed of corporates. As business men and women they obviously have acumen, but as bookmakers they can only be considered as lazy, passive and talentless.

The NRL place paramount importance on their image and reputation within the community. I would like to know what they think about their telecaster having a corporate relationship with an organisation that offer the community an opportunity only to lose money, and hence advancing the prospects of problem gambling in the community.

Problem Gambling

So why do the bookies actions lead to problem gambling? I see it pretty simply. Problem gambling is when punters bet outside their comfort levels and financial means. As punters, we all know the feeling of when you just can’t back a winner. You get angrier and often try to bet your way out of it. Even the most experienced, successful gambler would have experienced this feeling. By the bookies only letting people experience the feeling of losing, it drastically increases the chance of a punter betting beyond their means.

Further, if governments, via their regulatory bodies, condone an industry in which people can only lose money, isn’t that a problem?

I have tried to get this issue some exposure within mainstream media. It has got its fair share, considering that there are much bigger issues in Australia.

The disappointing aspect I find is that the racing mainstream media won’t touch it. You only have to watch an ad-break on TVN or Sky to figure out why. Luxbet, followed by Sportsbet, followed by Sportingbet, followed by Bet365 entertain us with their nauseating adverts.

This absolutely is a big issue for racing. NT bookies have a growing 22% of the national wagering market. Sky and TVN should have enough independent journalistic integrity to at least allow some debate over the issue on their flagship programs, Racing Retro or Racing Review. Much smaller issues get a lot of airtime on these shows.

Bookies Response

With the reasonable amount of media coverage I have received, the corporate bookies, when asked to comment in response to my claims have mostly ignored the requests or used the same disappointing, embarrassing line, “we ban a very small amount of professional punters to protect the odds for our valued recreational gamblers”.

Firstly, the vast majority of the “very small amount of punters” they ban are not pros, just recreational punters who spend a bit of time working out what horse, dog, etc. to back, and hence find an edge. Often they are punters who will bet small amounts like $20.

Secondly, the bookies don’t care at all about preserving odds for their recreational gamblers; they care for their recreational punters as long as they’re long term losers. That’s the embarrassing aspect of their comment – that they “care” for their recreational punters. If they care for their punters why don’t they let them win if they are good enough, especially considering that is the product they offer for sale, the opportunity to win money?

Australian Wagering Council


Australian Wagering Council

Corporate bookies in Australia have a peak body, the Australian Wagering Council. After much media pressure the AWC released a statement on the issue of banning punters saying –

“Bookmakers will occasionally decline bets placed by professional gamblers. This is because their bets can distort a betting market. In such instances, the odds change, meaning average punters get worse value. Bookmakers protect the interests of average punters by restricting bets from a professional. Roughly one in every 10,000 bets is declined.

Take a typical horse race, for example. Lots of people may want to stake $10 or $20 on the favourite at odds of, say $5. If a professional gambler comes in and backs the same horse with a $5,000 bet, the odds could be reduced to $3.50. The bookmaker may restrict or decline the bet from the professional punter, so the majority of their customers get a fair deal, rather than get short-changed with worse odds.”

This statement is an insult to the intellect of all Australian punters.

My response to this statement is as follows –

The bookies the AWC represent feel they can go against rules that have been in place for over a century for on-course bookmakers. On-course bookies are obligated to bet all comers to ensure a fair marketplace for all. Australia’s leading racing regulators and politicians have installed and maintained this practice for all of time.

AWC bookmakers don’t feel they should offer the same fair conditions. It is fortunate for AWC bookies that they found a tax friendly government and supportive regulator in the NT that allows them to behave like this.

All bookmakers represented by the Wagering Council already have the odds in their favour. By banning the minority of Australian punters who are smart enough or lucky enough to beat the percentage already against them, means that the majority of punters who lose, will only ever be able to lose. As soon as they become winners they will be banned. All losing punters aspire to win, that’s why the industry exists. That’s why people continue to bet. No one is betting to lose.

AWC’s example of a pro asking for $20k/$5k bet is unrealistic. It is in no way a reflection of how the industry works. Further, all I am asking is for all punters to be bet to win a minimum of $1k.

That bet would be $1k/$250 at the odds they describe, some 5% of the wager they use as an example. This would have no impact on the bookies books liability. I am not asking to win $20k, just to win $1k. I feel that is a fair request, no one expects or wants to put a bookmaker out of business.

Also, if bookies were to lay $20k/$5k in a bet from a pro and be forced to shorten the odds to $3.50, wouldn’t the bookie then push the odds of other horses out creating value for recreational punters on other horses? Or would they just leave all other horses the same price and have even more percentage in their favour? I think they would push the other horses out. That is how bookmaking works. Punters love fixed price markets because they move all the time. It’s all part of the fun of fixed price bookmaker betting.

Maybe the AWC should say this –

“The bookmakers we represent only want to bet losers and whilst the regulations we are bound by allow us to do this we will continue to conduct our business in this manner. If you are not happy with the regulations, talk to the Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC).”

At least no one would be able to argue with them then.

The Regulator

I have talked to the NT Government (who oversee the toothless regulator, NTRC) on many occasions and on many levels and got nowhere. The Minster for Business in the NT is the Honourable David Tollner. He has the power to change legislation. He has responded to me via email once when he told me to take my concerns to the NTRC. I did that and they knocked me back. In fact after my submission they my made it easier for bookies to pick and choose their clientele.

Mr Tollner also advised me that there were plenty of alternate betting operators available to me. To that I say – If BP is selling petrol 20 cents cheaper than Caltex, as a consumer don’t I have right to shop at BP? Not to mention I am subjected to their endless advertising during my quality time with friends and family watching horseracing or sport in general on TV.

The Northern Territory Racing Commission has a series of "objects" under the Racing and Betting Act - "fairness" being one of them.

The Northern Territory Racing Commission has a series of “objects” under the Racing and Betting Act – “fairness” being one of them.

After Mr Tollner and the NTRC knocked me back I put the story to the media. Three significant media organisations picked up the story. I thought this media attention warranted me re-engaging with Mr Tollner and requesting a phone conversation to discuss the issue. I did this in writing. His office acknowledged receipt of my request and said they would be in touch. A month has now past and I have not heard from Mr Tollner.

Aside from the banning punters issue you have to query the revenue corporate bookies in the NT actually raise for Mr Tollner’s government – especially if you are a resident relying on tax revenue to help improve basic amenities such as hospitals and schools.

The NT-based bookies have paid a pittance in tax to the State Government since the first bookie, Centrebet, opened for business in 1992.

Amazingly as their turnover grew, the NT Government saw fit in 2010 to reduce their turnover tax. Admittedly, they reduced their tax in the face of competition from Tasmania trying to lure the bookmakers down to the Apple Isle. Tasmania offered bookies a deal where their turnover tax would be capped at $258,000. The NT Govt. shot back with a cap of $250,000. They all stayed.

This tax concession meant the NT Government went from receiving $11.3 million in 2009 in tax to a paltry $2.35 million in 2012. In the same period the bookies turnover grew by $1 billion from $4.7 billion to $5.7 billion. Yep, that’s right, grew by a billion to $5.7 billion.

Governments allow gambling as it produces revenue for them and creates jobs within the allowed gambling industry. They usually take their fair whack, but the income the NT Government receives off $5.7 billion of bookmaker’s turnover seems a little light. Territorians are being massively short changed, not to mention the rest of Australia who are seeing potential revenue for their state governments leaked up to the NT.

To put it into context, the NT lotteries turnover was $50 million in 2011/2012, the NT Government. saw fit to tax that turnover some $15.8 million. The bookies turned over $5.7 billion and payed $2.35 million in turnover tax. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

The only possible argument I can see that NT bookies and NT Government can use to defend the tiny tax the bookies pay is that they pay race fields fees to all racings peak bodies, and pay GST to the Federal Government. But none of this revenue goes directly to the NT Government.

They could claim the industry creates jobs. The bookies employ 300 people in the NT. Every job in Australia is valuable but 300 is not exactly an amount that would cripple NT if the industry upped and left for Tasmania.  They used to employ a lot more than 300 people but the bookies have moved a lot of their infrastructures, and therefore jobs, to Melbourne and Sydney. I guess there is more fun to be had in Sydney and Melbourne.

NT bookmakers paid nothing by way of turnover tax to Australia’s peak racing bodies up until 2012 when forced to by the High Court. Peter V’Landys, Racing NSW CEO, fought hard for the turnover tax model he thought was right for the industry and won. I emailed him asking for his opinion on the issue. This was his response –

Thank you for seeking my input on this matter.

Racing NSW does consider this to be a very important issue and is fully appreciative of your views on this matter.

I was surprised and disappointed that the Northern Territory Government recently introduced a ruling that corporate bookmakers are not required to accept bets to a minimum amount and could further close the accounts of anyone they chose.  Unfortunately, Racing NSW has no control over the regulatory requirements that the Northern Territory imposes upon wagering operators licensed in its jurisdiction. 

I agree with you that it does seem incongruous that, in this day and age of responsible gambling, successful punters can be shut out.  It is unfair not only on the punters but also means that the wagering operators that operate in New South Wales and other States that are quite properly required to bet minimum amounts are at a disadvantage.  In my view, the fairest approach would be for all States and Territories in Australia to have the same minimum bet requirements and wagering operators not have the ability to close an account, or restrict its operation, simply because a punter is too successful.  That would ensure that the punters are given a fair go and that there is equality for the wagering operators”.

Having arguably Australia’s most prominent racing administrator take time to give me his thoughts on behalf of Racing NSW makes me feel the principles of what I am campaigning for are right.

NT bookies are 80% owned by European companies. They are bringing their business model to our shores and dictating to us on how to run our industry. Just ask any expert on the UK racing industry if the model has worked for the betterment of UK racing. Don’t be surprised if the term “dire straits” is used to describe the UK industry.

These European companies have paid huge amounts of money through company acquisitions and big advertising spends to get access to the Aussie market. I feel they have massively overestimated the viability of the Australian marketplace.

Sure we love a punt, but we have a population of 23 million not 500 million like in Europe. The market was pretty established and set before they came. I do not wish failure in business on anyone but I think some of these organisations are going to go back to Europe lighter in the pocket and with their tail between their legs.

Mind you, when Ladbrokes, the biggest bookie in the world, opens for business here and some punters are not even allowed to open an account with them because one of their industry experienced bookmakers has recognised their name (yep, that happened to me), it is hard to have much sympathy for them if they fail. They’re a $2.7 billion company though, I’m sure they will be okay no matter how their down under experience turns out for them.

TABCORP take a stand

Interestingly Tabcorp has taken aim at the corporates in the NT recently. Tabcorp CEO David Attenborough, during his annual address said this:

I would now like to address the issue of wagering regulation.

Wagering in Australia is currently regulated on a state-by-state basis. Tabcorp has long held the view that a consistent and national approach to wagering regulation is necessary. Not only is it in the public interest, it is also in the interests of the Australian racing industry and sporting codes, and will deliver a better outcome for government.

In the 2013 financial year Tabcorp returned more than $725 million to the Australian racing industry through wagering and contributions from our Media and International business.

The regulatory regime for corporate bookmakers licensed in the Northern Territory is very different to the states’ framework. These differences have driven the increased activity of the Northern Territory licensed corporate bookmakers, who do not have the same licence commitments that Tabcorp does. Indeed, up to eight cents in every dollar spent with the TAB on a totalizator bet goes to the racing industry. This compares with only 1 to 2 cents in the dollar for bets placed with corporate bookmakers licensed in the Northern Territory.

In the 2012 financial year, wagering taxes collected in the low-tax Northern Territory regime were a little over $2 million, despite more than $5.7 billion in turnover attributable to the Northern Territory licensed corporate bookmakers. In the same period, Tabcorp paid $292 million in state wagering taxes in NSW and Victoria on turnover of $10.8 billion, a proportion which is 77 times greater. Given one of the primary aims of licensing gambling products is to return a fair share of the proceeds to the community, the Northern Territory is grossly under taxing its licensed corporate bookmakers.

I would also like to talk about tote odds products offered by corporate bookmakers licensed in the Northern Territory. These are products derived off our totalizator dividends. In simple terms, totalizator dividends are calculated taking into account Tab’s funding commitments to support the racing industry.. The low level of racing product fees and taxes paid by the Northern Territory-licensed corporate bookmakers, combined with the fact that they don’t have obligations to share revenue derived on tote odds betting products with the industry, enables them to offer enhanced tote dividends to punters. Over the medium to long term this regulatory difference will undermine racing industry funding”.

I agree with Mr. Attenborough completely on all counts. His comments will cannibalise Luxbet (Tabcorp owned) a bit, but Luxbet’s plight is insignificant when compared to funding that the TAB provide to racing. The TAB needs to be allowed to protect this revenue. Without tote revenue staying at about 75% of the wagering market the industry in its present form isn’t sustainable.

I also agree that corporates should not be allowed to bet tote odds. It won’t help me or other punters, getting best tote plus 5% is great, but it is not the corporate bookies product to bet on. The TAB administers and promotes their tote odds at their own expense, so why should NT bookies just be allowed to copy them? It really is the TAB’s intellectual property.

Mr. Attenborough never addressed the issue of NT bookies banning punters. That’s because Tabcorp are right into it as well. Luxbet get rid of winners and now the Tab’s own fixed odds section go to great lengths to weed out winners. Surely Tabcorp has a responsibility above all others in the industry to give punters a chance to win?

The Future

I think you will find the Federal Government will step in soon and announce nationwide regulation of the horseracing gambling industry. The economics of the situation will be too compelling for the Government to ignore.

Hopefully the Federal Government will address punters being banned at the same time.

If they need something to compare it to they could ask the Australian Stock Exchange. The ASX appoint market makers like Macquarie Bank to their derivatives market. Market makers are bookmakers of the financial markets. Market makers are obliged to transact with any investor who wishes to place a derivative trade with them. If they refused someone’s custom, they would be hauled before ASIC and be in serious trouble. It all sounds familiar, right? Right up until the bit about being hauled before the industry regulator.

I have a phone conversation scheduled with Independent Senator, Nick Xenophon in early December. It will be interesting to get his thoughts and hopefully get the ball rolling for change. Not just change so punters can’t be banned but also change so that racings revenue is protected so racing can continue to grow and prosper.

We have the best industry in the world; let’s keep it that way. The rest of the world are welcome to get involved but on our terms, not theirs. Because the way racing has been run in this country for all of time has led to the vibrant, rewarding industry we all love. Of course we can always improve and keep learning, which goes without saying.

Maybe this is a rant or maybe I’ve hit the nail on then head. All feedback (positive or negative) is welcome below.


Richard Irvine

20 thoughts on “Regulatory changes on the horizon?

  1. Interesting Mr. Irvine mentions nothing at all about TAB takeouts of up to 16.25% , (which TABCORP increased when it merged with the WA TAB) on Win/Place pools and 20-25 % on the exotic TAB wagering pools, and its impact on the ability of punters to win long term. You also don’t mention the fact that Flexi betting was introduced by TABCORP to diminish the dividends returned to any individual punter, and advantage professionals. Also no mention of TAB affiliate programs, where professional punters and corporate bookmakers are paid rebates, and therefore given a clear advantage over all other punters, to dump funds into TAB pools, and reduce the returns to your everyday punter. I take it you are obviously happy with this, probably as a beneficiary of rebates (professional punter), so you see this as beneficial to the racing industry, when this joint venture agreement is another area which indirectly reduces the majority of punters into being losing punters / problem gamblers. Obviously as a beneficiary, this suits your self needs, and you see this as a huge benefit to the racing industry, which is why prizemoney and returns to industry participants are continually on the increase. Why is it you dont mention these issues as detrimental to punters, as it has the same impact as either banning winning punters, reducing their chances of winning?

    Is it actually because you are a TAB affiliate and a party to these rebates Mr. Irvine, and therefore only care about issues that affect your own self interests, and not all of the issues that are currently working against your everyday punter and benefitting, the racing industry, the corporate bookmakers and the TAB’s to reap huge profits from racing to the detriment of punters?

    • Joe,

      I came across this website and found it very interesting as I have had plenty of issues with corporate bookmakers over the years..Reading your above comment I have some points i would like to share with you

      1) Rebates are not very big at all and you still need to turn over millions each year just to be able to get them plus be a long term winner

      2) The professionals are not always right…So when they dislike a fav horse and the exotic dividends pay overs the typical mug punter is getting overs ( But they wouldn’t know anyways)

      3) Most punters over the period lose. I would say 1 – 2% could beat the totes in the long run and this wouldn’t increase that much with smaller takeouts. HK for example offer 10% rebates U.S much more but the dividends get so crunched down that it doesn’t matter. ( Taxation also applies on your winnings in U.S.A! )

      4) The TAB would see investing on horse racing by your typical weekend punter/ race goer as a form of “Entertainment” and sadly like anything in life people do get addicted. I don’t think a reduction in TAB takeouts would get rid of problem gambling.

      5) I think Richard is more concerned on foreign companies coming here and closing accounts and restricting bets. It’s an absolute joke what these companies do to winning punters and i completely agree with him.

      PS – I’m not having a go at you just stating my opinion.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Joe.

    I didn’t touch on Tab take-out rates and rebates as I’m focussing on fixed price betting and bookies banning punters. The Tab and don’t ban anyone from their tote pools, that is where the big difference lies.

    I can see your argument as to pros like Zeljko having last access to tote pools and healthy rebates. A lot of people in the industry would agree with you. I personally don’t think it is as bad for the general punting public as bookies being able to ban punters.

    I guess the Tab see it like all other businesses do when it comes to economies of scale. The more product you want to buy off someone, the cheaper they will sell it to you.

    Should Tab’s be allowed to give rebates and last access to corporates and pros? I don’t know. You would be welcome to put together a piece for this website if you wish.

    For racing to be funded the way it is today the vast amount of punters need to lose. The money has to come from somewhere. Hopefully punters feel they are entertained as they slowly bleed money away over the course of the year. Of course we need to make sure that no punters lose beyond their means, and hence why there is responsible gambling regulations.

    In terms of me being an affiliate and caring about self interests I say this.

    Rebates and last access to tote pools is so above the level that I punt at. I’m a small time recreational punter. I am campaigning because everyone keeps telling me that the principals of what I say are right.

    • The real issue, which has destroyed ‘;Fair Wagering’ is the Joint Venture agreement entered into by the racing industry and TABCORP. The racing industry itself has no interest ‘To promote fairness in the delivery of betting services to the public’. The only industry driver is PROFITABILTY for both the racing industry and TABCORP, in partnership with each other. TABCORP wish to have wagering set up so that the lucrative asian betting pools can be merged with Australian Wagering pools, and don’t care how it impacts Australian punters. The reality is in Victoria TABCORP take 16.25% of the Win / Place betting pools, and 20% from exotic pools. Racing NSW (Also in bed with TABCORP) won the court case to have 1.5% Turnover tax applied to the corporate bookmakers with this to increase to 2% for races over $150,000 or Group races. The industry now have a driver with the wealth of profitibility reaped out of punting under the joint venture agreement to push the base race value up to $150,000.

      TABCORP and the Racing Industry are both living on the fat of the lamb and have total disdain for punters.

      BETFAIR existed and was profitable with 5% takeouts in their wagering pools. TABCORP and the racing industry tried to force BETFAIR out of the market with the introduction of the 1.5% turnover tax. BETFAIR are still viable, profitable, and the best option in the Australian wagering market.

      You cant argue the TAB’s have overheads, and these corporates do not. TAB’s are privately owned by individuals. The agency owner pays their staff, for the TV’s, the tickets etc…. They are franchises.

      There is no reason the totalisator could not reduce its takeouts to a level of 5-9%. Their should not be TAB affiliate programs. Bookmakers should not be able to transfer their customer’s wager into it’s direct competitors pools and be paid a rebate to do so, and the liability for the 1.5% turnover tax transferred with it to the end user.

      All parties should pay the turnover tax.

      The current set up is just a sweetheart deal where all wagering operators benefit greatly by receiving rebates for colluding with each other to reduce the returns to punters.

      It is highly profitable to all betting agencies and the racing industry itself, and given winners are allowed to be banned, the direct result is an increase in problem gambling.

      Reduced takeouts and increased turnover should be the industry direction. Sadly, exorbitant entry fees to the racetrack, copious amounts of expensive alcohol, and relieving all punters of their money with unfair wagering markets is both the direction of the racing industry and TABCORP in partnership.

      This is your ‘Fair Wagering Australia’.

      Your article is well written Richard, but it does not address all areas where the racing industry treats punters unfairly.

      There are so many issues that just get swept under the carpet.

      • Before anyone argues that both TABCORP and the Racing Industry could not survive without the huge current takeout rates and the TAB affiliate program rebates for the select chosen ones, why couldn’t ALL totalisator punters be entitled to REBATES, and why couldn’t the TAB TAKEOUTS be reduced, and not the curent insidious relationships ?

        There was a time when you would have said, it would not be viable to sell a 2 litre milk for $2, but both Coles and Woolworths both do it, and we all shop there in droves, and take their discount vouchers to reduce our price on petrol when besides, exclusively shopping with them, we also buy their petrol.

        Give the punter a fair go.

        Under the current wagering environment, the racing industry TAXATION on race wagering is too high, with the direct intent of making all punters either LOSING punters, or BANNED from placing a bet.

  3. Behind you 100%, I have lost count of how many times I have been banned. It’s a joke!

  4. Totally Agree!

    Uniform laws and regulations for all should be a matter of fact for a national industry that has no state boundaries. The ‘Aussie’ fair go is not represented here. Why on earth would someone strive to become a better punter when with each success the odds are reduced or withdrawn from his reach and abilty to participate.

    Having seen many examples of account closures, some in record time due to the ‘industry experienced bookies’ that seam to be on rotational lend to everyone, (what happened to client privacy?) there is a need to consolidate and protect our industry by competing equally on the same base …. our wits and handicapping ability. That’s fair ! Both the punter/bookie can do the same.

    One sure way to ensure better result for punters, I feel would be a national pool and 1 fair price for a horse on all totes. The 3 totes divide and concur the industry with the resulting scramble for the best price, if that was gone, there would be much less nonsense, better pools and more money and stability in the totes where it belongs.


    • Combined totes could be a way to go. If going down that road TAB could look at having 112% take-outs. Would be interesting to see a model on the viability of 112% take-out rate for the industry.

    • Interesting if you go to the Racing Victoria website and read the Chief Executive – Bernard Saundy position on the article written by Mike Hedge – Herald Sun “The biggest game in town has got even bigger”

      Some interesting points from both articles:

      The VRC which runs the Melbourne Cup delivered a 7.5 million profit, in the 2012 / 2013 financial year. Up 200% from previous years. Comes on the back of $150.5 million in revenue, a 5% increase on the 2011/2012 financial year. The profit made the VRC debt free despite having invested 10 million in racecourse developments and increased prizemoney of 36.4 million.

      Racing Victoria are on track to deliver a budgetted profit of 14.4 million in 2013/2014. Racing Victoria revenue is expected to increase by $1.3 million in the 2013/2014 financial year.

      These words are interesting in the CEO’s response on the Racing Victoria website ” We are committed to working with our stakeholders and COMMERCIAL PARTNERS to build a pathway that delivers long term growth”

      What he should be saying is, under the Joint Venture agreement, Racing Victoria, TABCORP and the Corporate Bookmakers are ever increasing record returns out or racing wagering.

      Bernard also states: “The need to grow the wagering pie is one of the six game changers identified in our strategic plan and WE are working towards achieving this through a quantum of measures, led by a restructure of the raceday calender, a review of our racing and training infrastructure, the integration of media and digital assets and a more cost effective racing model.”

      What he should have said is, TABCORP have always wanted to merge our totalisator wagering pools with the lucrative asian markets, We will restructure the racing calender so that this can be achieved, because under the current joint venture agreement and the 16.25% takeout from Victorian WIN / PLACE wagering pools, and the 20% takeout from exotic racing pools, combined with the TAB affiliates program, the 3 Commercial parners, the racing industry, TABCORP and the corporate bookmakers are making record profit levels never seen before, and we dont need to have any regard whatsoever for any racing punter wagering on horse wagering, as now horse racing is reaping the same returns as the POKIES, but the government are happy for private companies to reap these returns.

      Who cares about the social implications. Who cares if punters cant win, or are banned from placing a bet.

      Racing has never been more profitable.

      If you wanted a FAIR WAGERING AUSTRALIA the Tab Takeouts would be reduced to the BETFAIR takeout rates, and the TAB’s would have marketplace dominance and punters would return to the totalisator wagering pools.

      Racing has no regard for punters.

      It is currently set up for the racing industry, TABCORP and the corporate bookmakers to make record profits, as shown by the ever increasing PROFITS above.

      PUNTERS are just the collateral damage.

  5. Thank you Richard for speaking up and taking the time to put your views so clearly and thoughtfully.Like many, I absolutely agree with your comments and your media work so far has been a flicker of light and hope against an overwhelming backdrop of media darkness. Not only is the behaviour of these organisations unfair, unconscionable and immoral but as you point out, it is unAustralian and a threat to the long term sustainability of our industry. We must have faith that your sound reasoning and logical arguments will help governments and industry administrators realise that something must be done.


  6. While not a lawyer I’d be surprised if the sharing of information between corporate bookmakers without the express permission of their clients would not amount to a breach of privacy.

  7. Still, if that is the case, it’s the sort of thing that you could expect in an environment that isn’t regulated. Don’t need to look much further than the relationship between suppliers and supermarkets where a voluntary code of conduct has been recently introduced. The enormous power of the supermarket chains vs the supplier was open to abuse. I read in one case where the Supermarket stole the concept from the supplier leading to bankruptcy of the supplier. The supermarket saw how successful the concept was, stole the idea and the supplier went bankrupt as a result.
    That product is now replaced by the Supermarket’s home brand. At least there is now a voluntary Code Of Conduct between Supermarkets and Suppliers. Even if the Supermarkets were dragged kicking and screaming. Maybe us punters can hope for such a voluntary code to be adopted by the corporate bookmakers, even if they have to be dragged kicking and screaming?

  8. Now that’s an interesting comparison. Supermarket Suppliers according to the voluntary code of conduct can no longer have their Intellectual property stolen by the Supermarkets. Which flies in the face of what now appears to be happening by the corporate bookmakers. Closely monitoring the activity of their successful clients to their own advantage. In effect, stealing the intellectual property of these clients and using it to their own advantage. That sure opens up a can of worms.

  9. You raise really good points. Especially the voluntary code of conduct. I think we should look at approaching AWC with that. How much bad press do they want? The bad press is only just starting. Nip it in the bud now and the bad press goes away.

  10. No need to ban anyone betting in the TAB tote pools because the TAB cleans up on every dollar spent!! The more bet on any horse or dog the less the dividend due to the takeout. Fixed odds are the only place the TAB can lose.

  11. The real truth is PROBLEM GAMBLERS will be the collateral damage. Horse race wagering will be the new POKIES SCOURGE under the current Joint Venture Agreement arrangements.

    Never mind, TABCORP, Racing Victoria and Racing NSW (TABCORP Juridstictions) and the Corporate Bookmakers will reap the rewards.

    Why do you think the English Bookmakers are paying top dollar and buying every corporate bookmaking firm in the Australian Marketplace?

    Easy Money and Self regulated.

  12. I’ve had enough of the Australian Corporate Bookmakers attitude and business model regarding the closure and
    restrictions to ridiculously small betting amounts.
    Something has to be said and done.
    These operations have been given a license to conduct their business in a highly sensitive and perceived highly
    ethical and accountable industry regarding the community and political spectrum.
    Since the UK/European Bookmakers have almost completely consumed the corporate Bookmakers in Australia,
    they have imposed their unethical treatment of profiling clients accounts to the extreme. By their own admissions
    they are all now (with few exceptions) closing members accounts that are winning, breaking square, not
    betting in more than one sports code, that are perceived to find odds advantages and virtually any client/account
    that their profiling considers NOT to be a LOSER.
    This practise in my opinion is paramount to the proliferation of “Problem Gambling” by virtue of their actions.
    They are only willing to accept and continue their service to Losing Clients !!
    “Problem Gamblers” are predominately Losing Gamblers.
    Their advertising is levelled at attracting the ill informed gamblers that lose, their incentives (cleverly disguised
    by more fine print than is needed to operate heavy machinery) are aimed to induce the uneducated gambler
    and then offer reckless and unscrupulous credit which is almost always increased upon request as long as
    you keep losing and paying. This practise creates an unrealistic and unfamiliar situation with readily available
    funds which fuels Problem Gamblers by removing the losing gamblers biggest hurdle, “Lack of Funds” to lose.
    When does their profiling start to identify losing gamblers that have the propensity to become “Problem
    Gamblers”. Who has ever received a letter/email stating; “We are closing your account because you are losing
    too much and we think you may have a gambling problem. Please seek help from a medical practitioner”.
    This will not happen, but the ink is still wet on the letters and emails flowing from the Corporate Bookmakers
    closing accounts of clients that win or even break square according to their profiling.
    Action must be taken! The State Gambling Authorities and Regulators need to set in place bet limits aimed
    at the Bookmakers to accept a minimum liability from their clients. These same Bookmakers that shove their
    products in our face 24/7, must have a duty and obligation to service their clients under their licensing
    agreements. Bookmakers on track are obligated and enforced to bet clients to a minimum liability.
    NSW Bookmakers on track; Country meetings $1000, City meetings on rails $3000 off rails $1000
    Victorian Bookmakers on track; Country meetings $1500, City meetings on Rails $5000 off rails $1500.
    It seems ludicrous that 90% of the fixed odds betting in this country has no such obligation.

    Corporate Bookmakers have hidden behind the banner of recreational and hobby gamblers as their client
    audience when infact behind closed doors their target audience is Losing Gamblers.
    This whole practise by the Corporate Bookmakers is morally and ethically corrupt, and needs to be fixed

  13. The only way I can see of enforcing the obligation to lay a fixed odds bet to a certain liability limit is to allow the cessation of bets say 30-60 seconds before the jump so bookmakers can lay off. This is the nub of their argument, ie punter wants to back a horse to win $10,000, horse is already a loser in the book, places a wager with 2 seconds before the gates open, nowhere to run….and THAT is why bets placed on racing are limited and ultimately became the reason why the minimum liability of $1000 was removed in the first place, simple fix? Close betting 1 minute before the jump to allow bookies to balance the book

    • zerograv1 you cant be serious. Have you not read any of these threads? If you had of you would see a major point is backing a horse to win $1000. That’s the art/risk of bookmaking, taking bets before the jump. The greedy lazy corporates only want losing punters. It’s unethical, immoral and damn right un-Australian. How it can happen in a great country like ours is tragic. As an aside, it’s a disgrace that punters can be banned from Casinos, which has gone on for as long as Casinos have been around. It’s the same principle, they only want mug/losing punters.

      • The point is punters want it both ways, make it too favorable to the bookies and punters move elsewhere or give up the punt; make it too favorable to punters (512 oncourse bookies shrank to 120) as happened in Victoria in the 1980’s and the number of providers declines severly as its impossible to fairly make a book and offer a service = this also leads to higher fixed price percentages and monopolies on country tracks, v bad for the punter. Closing a race 60 or 30 seconds before the jump only disadvantages those that follow fluctutations, a minority of punters, no one else cares

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