Open letter to Bernard Saundry, CEO of Racing Victoria

Hi Bernard,

I was heartened to hear you recently on RSN Radio say that Racing Victoria will consider Minimum Bet Laws for corporate bookmakers in May when you renew your race fields legislation.

It’s so important that RVL introduce and legislate Minimum Bet Limits and ban account closures.

It’s incongruous that ingenuity and a pursuit of excellence is nurtured and sought as a priority in every aspect of racing except punting.  The highly sophisticated industry that RVL is pushing towards must consider and protect punters into the future.

Fixed odds wagering is booming and is heading towards – in-terms of revenue for the industry – becoming an equal funding contributor as tote betting. Tabcorp just released half yearly results where fixed odds revenues were up 33%. Fixed odds revenues are up because that’s how punters want to bet these days – in particular the next generation of punters that RVL has been vocal about attracting. I’m part of that next generation; we’re smart and we have an abundance of information and computers available to us that previous generations didn’t. And that’s given so many more punters the opportunity to win on the punt – which is a great thing. But there’s no point to this “digital revolution” and initiatives like your own racing.com, if punters can’t at least potentially monetise this wealth of info.

I heard you on radio this morning talk in particular about RVL trying to attract 18-25 year olds as a priority. You went on to affectionately label them as “the next generation of race goers and my children” and how important it is that they learn about racing and engage with it. If RVL don’t act against the current corporate bookmaker climate, “your children” will be engaging with a gambling market that is a one-sided massacre akin to poker machines. Strong but realistic language.

The entire industry, from the Australian Racing Board to media commentators, right through to the tens of thousands of industry participants are tired of corporate bookmakers rapacious conduct, because Australian racing is based on integrity and fair go for all. 

On-course betting rings have always been regulated and fair, which is why we have the strongest marketplace in the world. RVL should act for no other reason than to impose the same regulations that they have placed on on-course bookies for all of time. You would no doubt have had meetings with the Australian Bookmakers Association, who have waged a long, patient and considered campaign to level the playing field for the hundreds of on-course bookies they represent, who face the most headwinds of all wagering operators.

The marketplace has improved slightly in the last year. And some corporates have listened to the industry and are now running equitable, fair and profitable businesses. And there has been a minute minority of corporates who have always run fair businesses. But there is still a number of large foreign corporates who believe their bookmaker’s license is an entitlement, and they shouldn’t be saddled with the competitive forces that every other business in Australia faces. A bookmakers license is the privilege of framing a market with the percentage in your favour, and going about laying every runner to make your margin. This seems to have been forgotten.

I acknowledge that the fractured state of national racing administration has made this issue a complicated one. But you have the resources to to act and I guarantee it will be to racing’s betterment. You will face push-back from disgruntled corporates who may argue that the new tax regimes have made it too hard for them to service “low-margin clients”. But that’s simply because they misread and over invested in the Australian marketplace. That’s not RVL’s problem, and it’s not the punter’s problem.

This issue will never go away. If you don’t act the industry will continue to be deprecated as people like me speak out against it. I don’t wish to be an antagonist, I just love racing and want a fair go.

There’s two types of punters in Australia; those who win and those who aspire to win. If RVL don’t act for all punters in May you will be telling winning punters to invest elsewhere, and aspiring winning punters that they are welcome so long as they lose. What happens when the aspiring winning punters realise that they’re just fodder?

You run the strongest racing jurisdiction in the world. All punters love racing in Victoria and want to support and engage with it – but Racing Victoria need to support us.

Regards,

Richard Irvine