Australian racing is at it again. The country, which has GDP about one-fifteenth the size of the US, brings in close to a similar amount in wagering, and there are numerous reasons why, but one big one is their respect for the bettor, by introducing common-sense items to make the betting game better.
Recently they have employed a bettor to overhaul a few things in the system. One of which, is the reporting of vet work etc done on horses before races. This "database of treatments" will have to be reported to bettors.
Trainers will soon have to report all relevant procedures administered to a horse. At present, wind operations, bone-chip removals, etc, do not have to be reported, although there is a rule where a trainer has to report to stipes anything that may affect a horse's performance in the week before a race. ''The rule currently is in relation to what's happened in the lead-up to a race,'' Murrihy said. ''Stewards believe it should be mandatory to report things like wind operations and this will be made public.''
Reversals of form, whereby a horse who gets beat by an interstate last time comes back to win, is one of the worst pieces of public relations our sport has. For 100 years it has been something that the industry did not have to address because if a bettor did not like a reversal, what else was he going to bet. In today's society where one person can scream "fix!" on a chat board and be heard (while quickly running to get $50 on the Pats minus 4), things like this are very important. Ask any player of Hong Kong racing and they will tell you their vet database is a used tool. Australia now offers something similar.
There are a few other issues that leading betting expert Scott looks at on his blog.
Australia has instituted many things the past ten years or so for their racing. They have fixed odds wagering through bookmakers and Betfair. They have several promos every year with zero or very low takeout bets. Their effective takeout rate has gone down with this, from around 17% in the early part of the decade (here it is around 22%). They have televised objections, and employed bettors to make things better.
It has not been easy (it took court fights to allow low takeout betfair in 2007/08 for example) as the old-time power base in racing would not let some of it happen without fighting it to protect their slice, but it has happened.
In a world-wide betting recession and with all these changes, Australian racing has been holding its own, and doing some growing. "Betting on thoroughbreds topped $15 billion for the first time in 2009-10. With the $5.074 billion wagered on harness and greyhounds betting on the three codes burst through the $20 billion barrier (up from $19.369 billion) [and ] was up 4.4% last year". That is in the pools, and does not include the growth of betfair betting (and other low takeout fixed odds wagering) which was up 35% last season.
It's amazing what good can happen when your customers are put first. And the question must be asked, especially in light of the takeout hike by the CHRB: If they can make customer-positive changes, why can't we?