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THEY WONDER WHY PUNTERS DON'T WANT TO BET ON QLD RACING

THE continued standing down of stewards in Queensland has made that State the laughing stock of racing in Australia.

AAP reports that a cadet steward has become the fifth Queensland Racing Integrity Commission official stood down in the past seven months pending a misconduct investigation.

QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett told MARK OBERHARDT of AAP that the cadet steward, who is based in Townsville, was suspended with pay following an allegation of serious misconduct.

Barnett said the cadet steward was stood down immediately after a QRIC Integrity Regulation Unit investigation started.

"This incident has had no repercussions for any racing industry participant and there will be no further comment at this stage," Barnett said.

LETSGOHORSERACING understands – from its sources in North Queensland – that the problem relates to an allegation concerning swabbing procedures.

There have been four stewards stood down or sacked since late last year while Integrity Officer Norm Torpey has been redeployed after a complaint.

Some of these stewards are among the top echelon of the Integrity Unit in Queensland which paints an unfortunate picture for those who are in the spotlight and crossfire of punters on a daily basis.

Chief Steward Allan Reardon has had his contract extended when many believe he should have retired. The Head of Integrity position has been a revolving door since the services of high profile Wade Birch and Jamie Dart were dispensed with.

It’s not a good look for racing in Queensland where punters – big and small – have walked away in droves lacking confidence in the on-track product. Emails received by LGHR largely relate to form reversals brought about by the swamp-like tracks being served up at Eagle Farm and Doomben. But punters generally believe stewards need to take a closer look at how racing is being run at the Sunshine Coast where short priced favourites have a notoriously bad winning record and some rides leave a lot to be desired but are rarely questioned.

One of the biggest controversies relates to a leading stable that was reportedly raided by stewards who found oxygen tanks and refrigerators full of blood but no action was allegedly taken when this was reported to Integrity Commission bosses. The stable has links to some very high profile racing identities and politicians.   

    

 

 

DIRE PRIZEMONEY WARNING IF MERGER OF BIG TOTES IS REFUSED

A refusal of the proposed merger between Tabcorp and Tatts would see racing prizemoney fall to UK levels, the chief executive of Racing and Wagering Western Australia has told a court hearing on the merger.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that RWWA boss Richard Burt said the funding of racing in Australia – which is among the most lucrative in the world – would shift towards the UK model where corporate bookmakers dominate and prizemoney is poor.

Australian owners, trainers and jockeys compete for almost $400 million more in prizemoney each year than their British counterparts.

"You can see how the market is going to unfold," Mr Burt told the tribunal. "If the TABs don't remain competitive, I believe you will end up with more of a UK-type model. And when corporates get a hold of the customers en masse, as evidenced by the UK, you end up with situations from a racing jurisdiction … you will find racing will decline.

"I'm very concerned that a non-competitive TAB going forward that doesn't have greater capacity to compete in marketing and digital innovation and when the market is moving that way, you will find there will be much greater market share shift and an underfunding of racing."

The tribunal is part way through 14 days of hearings to decide whether the two companies should be allowed to merge to create and $11 billion gambling company.

The merger is supported by all Australian racing jurisdictions except Victoria. Racing.com and CrownBet have also intervened in the proceedings to oppose the merger.

Mr Burt who told the tribunal he came to the hearing as a neutral party, but with expertise, said TAB operators such as RWWA, Tabcorp and Tatts – which supply the vast bulk of racing funding – were under intense pressure from Northern Territory licensed bookmakers.

"I evidenced in broad terms that the non Territory operators, which does include Betfair and rails bookmakers and TABs including ourselves, have grown approximately 4 per cent over the last seven years from $17 billion to $17.7 odd billion turnover," he said.

"And the corporates [NT-based corporate bookmakers] in the same period had grown approximately $5.4 billion to about $10.8 billion.

"If you don't have consolidation, if you don't have a strong TAB going forward, you will find that they will be marginalised, they won't be able to innovate, they won't be able to compete and they are the major funding of racing currently and I believe prospectively going forward."

Mr Burt also brushed aside suggestions that Tatts and Tabcorp would be the only bidders for the WA TAB if privatisation were put back on the table by the WA government.

He dismissed suggestions from counsel for the Victorian racing industry, Simon White SC, that corporate bookmakers lacked the expertise in running a tote and that would be a barrier from them bidding – a claim that opponents of the merger such as CrownBet and Racing Victoria have been pushing to portray the transaction as limiting competition for future wagering licences.

"The skills involved in running a risk-based corporate book are more intellectual than what running a tote is. They're not unique skills, to be honest and the corporate bookmakers through their parents have got the skill in the UK. Genuinely they're not unique skills," Burt said.

"You can acquire the talent very easily and they have a background of having this experience through their parents."

 

ASIC QUIETLY DROPS CASE AGAINST FORMER RQ OFFICIALS 

THE corporate watchdog quietly dropped a case against 10 senior Queensland racing officials referred for investigation by a commission of inquiry in 2014.

MARK SOLOMONS reports for BRISBANE TIMES.com.au that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission found insufficient evidence to proceed against Bill Ludwig, the Labor powerbroker and a former board member of Racing Queensland, nor other board members and executives including chairman Bob Bentley.

The Newman LNP state government's three-month inquiry into the racing industry was chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Margaret White, who was in July appointed joint head of the probe into youth detention in the Northern Territory.

Justice White found a raft of suspected breaches of the Corporations Act by Mr Ludwig, Mr Bentley and others.

The inquiry focused on the circumstances under which Racing Queensland executives signed lucrative new contracts boosting their entitlements just before they left the body; it also queried millions of dollars in payments to gaming company TattsBet.

But Mr Bentley confirmed he had received written advice from ASIC in late 2014, a few months after the report was handed down, that there was insufficient evidence for the regulator to take any action.

"It was a political bloody stitch-up," Mr Bentley told Fairfax Media.

He said the executives receiving large pay-outs "wasn't a good look" but such contractual arrangements had been needed at the time to try to prevent key staff leaving as Racing Queensland negotiated $110 million of extra funding from the Bligh government.

"It wasn't some shonky little deal cooked up in a back room," he said.

Mr Bentley said the inquiry "found nothing because there was nothing to find".

"It could have been resolved over a cup of coffee," he said.

As well as Mr Ludwig and Mr Bentley, the inquiry referred to ASIC former chief executive Malcolm Tuttle, along with former board directors Anthony Hanmer, Robert Lette, Wayne Milner and Bradley Ryan; and executives Shara Reid, Paul Brennan and Kerry Watson.

An ASIC spokesman said the watchdog had taken no action against any of the people referred to it by the inquiry.

The probe took place under then-racing minister and LNP MP Steve Dickson, who has since defected to One Nation.

Mr Dickson declined to comment except to say it was a "fair inquiry and it did make recommendations". He said then-LNP attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie had overseen the inquiry, not him.

The White Inquiry was the seventh official inquiry into racing in Queensland since 1920.

Justice White wrote in her report that "it would be a matter of great regret if this Commission were just another cathartic event in the history of racing in Queensland, from which no lessons are learned".

Meanwhile, investigations into alleged criminality and rorting in the industry continue. Queensland's Crime and Corruption Commission is investigating alleged criminal activity in the awarding of contracts by Racing Queensland for racetrack upgrades. It has not been revealed what period the offences relate to, but they are understood to have occurred since the 2014 inquiry.

As part of the probe, codenamed Operation Yardage, the CCC last week charged two men with fraud, forgery and misconduct offences.

They are both due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on June 7.

 

 

CASHED-UP CORPORATE BOOKIES NEED COMPETITION – DO THEY WHAT!

COUNSEL for Tabcorp and Tatts pointed to the extraordinary rise of cashed-up corporate bookmakers to highlight competition in wagering to justify their proposed merger.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that the Australian Competition Tribunal, on the first day of the hearing into the proposed merger of the two companies, heard growth in the wagering market had come to be dominated by the online subsidiaries of global gambling giants, such as Paddy Power, Betfair's Sportsbet and Ladbrokes Coral's, a local operation, along with the James Packer-owned Crown's online gambling venture CrownBet.

Counsel for Tatts, Rod Smith, SC, said CrownBet's aggressive acquisition of sponsorships with sporting bodies, such as the AFL and Victorian racing, and its print companies' $9.6 billion balance sheet was evidence of its status as a vigorous competitor.

Tabcorp counsel, Cameron Moore, SC, accused racing broadcaster racing.com of using the hearing to try to drive down the price of the racing TV rights that it was interested in acquiring.

He quoted Perth Racing CEO John Yovich's statement to the tribunal in which he criticised racing.com CEO Andrew Catterall, for pushing for restrictions on the merged entity and racing authorities striking exclusive rights deals on vision. Yovich's statement said: "It appears to me that much of Mr Catterall's statement is directed at restricting the freedom of racing clubs to manage their rights to extract maximum value from them. Simply, he appears to want to use the opportunity afforded the current tribunal process to obtain cheaper rights."

Smith said: "The parents of these corporate bookmakers, if one puts aside CrownBet, are substantial overseas operators. Paddy Power owns Sportsbet and it's one of the largest online wagering operators in the world.

"Ladbrokes is involved, William Hill is involved, CrownBet is owned by Crown Resources, which has a very substantial market capitalisation as the documents will show."

CrownBet has formed a number of partnerships, one of them is its relationship with racing.com.

"It's that company's premium wagering partner, enjoying extensive preferential advertising rights, and live streaming to its customer digital assets of Victorian Thoroughbred Racing," Smith said.

"Another partnership is CrownBet, the official wagering partner of the AFL, offering live vision to customers who download the CrownBet app and create an account. And if any of the members of the tribunal went to the football in Melbourne on the weekend and got the program, your honour would have seen two ads with Ricky Ponting advertising precisely that," he said.

Peter Gray, SC, for racing.com, said of Sky Channel's power "that leverage could be used to warehouse and tie up, for the long term, racing rights. They will continue to seek to acquire bundled and exclusive rights for as long as they can.

"That's not going to change unless there is a constraint placed on them. At the moment there is that constraint in the form of racing.com. The question for the tribunal is whether this delicate balance is going to be tipped irrevocably by the approval of this merger."

 

FORBES HAS TO BE DREAMING WITH HIS BOLD NEW VISION FOR RQ

By TERRY BUTTS of the NQ REGISTER

“FOR the past six months, we have been setting the foundations to make real our bold new vision”, was the beginning of a media release from the Racing Queensland CEO Eliot Forbes over the weekend.

And he went on in a brave attempt to paint of bright picture of what might be – albeit a three year vision.

Nothing wrong with a bit of spin to an industry desperate for a smidgen of good news – just a shame about the timing.

For on the very same day Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson announced another whopping $15.5 million in prize money - THIS YEAR – making a season total of $214 million from August 1.

Obviously neither Forbes nor his minders saw it coming and he waded on:

“We are at an intersection of meeting current needs and planning for the future with a renewed energy.

“We are ever mindful of our responsibilities across the entire spectrum of the three codes of the racing industry, including our vibrant and diverse country and community racing sector and we have a clear line of sight on what we want to deliver in the future.’’

He said over the next three years Racing Queensland will boost prize money in a sustainable manner.

He didn’t say how, he didn’t say when and he certainly didn’t say by how much.

“We have reached a critical stage in our transformation. I am personally excited to share our progress and future plans.”

And then this: “I look forward to working with you as we build towards becoming Queensland’s favourite sport and Australia’s best racing jurisdiction.”

Oh please!

On a serious note

THERE are other serious matters for the CEO and his board to ponder in the coming weeks - and they are hardly something to be excited about.

Two high profile racing men were charged last week with serious fraud matters arising from alleged fraudulent payments associated with racecourse maintenance and construction. And the inquiries are not restricted to racecourses in the SE corner either.

Two officials of the Townsville Turf Club  were interviewed by the CCC last year and later provided statements that in actual fact were referred to by Kevin O’Keefe in his last chairman’s report before the mass resignation of his committee. It is all there in black and white.

And, according to the old rumour mill, stand by for a couple of former RQ key staff members to be named, if not charged. These latest investigations happened under the watch of the current RQ board and CEO in spite of media reports to the contrary.

Yes, it is a critical stage in the transformation of RQ - to repeat the words of CEO Forbes.

A priority might be to divest RQ from the greyhounds and harness. They should never have been placed under the same umbrella anyway. It has been an abject failure. The dogs and trots should be masters of their own destiny. Yet now we have RQ seeking to employ someone to find suitable new venues.

 

 

VICTORIAN ROADBLOCK TO TAB MERGER BORDERING ON JOKE STATUS

THE Victorian racing industry's broadcaster, racing.com, have lined up with CrownBet and other corporate bookmakers to oppose the merger of Tatts and Tabcorp.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that this puts Victoria at odds with the rest of the country. All other state racing bodies back the merger, as do the jockeys, trainers, hoteliers and clubs.

Tabcorp says the merger will create $50 million in annual benefits for the racing industry.

The Australian Competition Tribunal hearings start this week with a decision on the merger due on June 13.

Racing Victoria says the merger will take Tatts out as a bidder for the next Victorian wagering licence in 2024.

However, governments issue the wagering licences and no state government is opposing the merger, which would create an $11billion company.

Racing.com says the merger will give Tabcorp-owned Sky Channel more power to obtain favourable media rights deals. However, this has been rejected by rights holders such as Racing Queensland and Perth Racing.

Many senior racing officials maintain a successful merger between both companies would be in racing's long-term interests. As many point out, the infrastructure in racing in the past 50 years has been solely funded by TAB.

 

ANOTHER KICK IN THE GUTS FOR QLD RACING IN PRIZEMONEY RACE

NEWS had hardly broken of the massive prizemoney increases for racing in Victoria when stakeholders in Queensland went on the attack.

Emails were flying thick and fast with a mixture of anger and despair that once again racing in Queensland was falling further behind the major southern States.

Hot on the heels of major stakes increases in NSW, Victoria have responded with similar good news for the industry in the State that continues to lead the way in Australia.

An example of how feelings were running high can be gauged by just two of the emails that we have chosen to publish:

‘While Racing Queensland and the Government in this State sit on their hands, Victoria and NSW continue to increase their lead in the prizemoney race. We have fallen so far behind our prizemoney will soon struggle to compete with what they pay at the picnics.’

‘At a time when the spotlight is supposed to be on Queensland for its Winter Carnival, Victoria steals the thunder with a record prizemoney announcement. All we get in the north are the crumbs after millions are spent on tracks that resemble swamps, integrity units that can’t see the forest for the trees and pork-barreling of under-achieving clubs.’

Here is the Racing Victoria media release on the latest stakes increases:   

RECORD prizemoney will be on offer in Victoria for the 2017-18 racing season after Racing Victoria (RV) on Saturday announced a $15.5 million increase with effect from 1 August 2017.

All owners, trainers and jockeys will get the chance to share in the increases which are spread from prestigious Group 1 races to once-a-year picnic race meetings throughout country Victoria.

For the first time, more than $200 million in prizemoney and bonuses will be on offer in Victoria with a total of $214 million up for grabs throughout next season.

The highlights of the announcement, which brings to $40 million the quantum of increases in Victoria since May 2015, are:

  • A bigger, better Spring Racing Carnival to launch on the first weekend of spring with a $1 million Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) – up from $500,000 in 2016 – at Caulfield on Saturday, 2 September and the Scobie Breasley Medal on Sunday night, 3 September;
     
  • An enhanced program of weight-for-age racing during the Spring Racing Carnival with the following prizemoney increases in addition to the Memsie Stakes:

    $750,000 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m, Flemington, 16 September) – up $250,000

    $750,000 Underwood Stakes (1800m, Caulfield, 1 October) – up $250,000

    $1 million Caulfield Stakes (2000m, Caulfield, 14 October) – up $400,000
     
  • The positioning of Victoria as the place to race three-year-olds with minimum prizemoney for Saturday metropolitan races raised to $120,000 and the following feature race increases announced for the age group:

    $2 million Caulfield Guineas (1600m, Caulfield, 14 October) – up $1 million

    $1 million Coolmore Stakes (1200m, Flemington, 4 November) – up $500,000

    $1 million Australian Guineas (1600m, Flemington, 3 March) – up $250,000
     
  • The affirmation of Victoria’s status as ‘the home of the stayer’ with minimum prizemoney of $120,000 for all Saturday metropolitan races over 2000m or further – an increase of 50% for some classes;
     
  • The introduction of a $100,000 minimum for standard Saturday metropolitan races in addition to the premium increase for three-year-old and staying races (2000m+);
     
  • Over $6 million in additional funding for country racing prizemoney including a 50% increase in minimum funding for popular picnic races;
     
  • Greater returns for first time winners with minimum prizemoney for standard country maidens raised by 10% to $22,000, for premium country maidens to $25,000 and for maidens at country night meetings to $27,000; and
     
  • In line with national policy the allocation of 1% of prizemoney to both jockey welfare and equine welfare to fund investment in programs, services and initiatives.
     

            2017-18 Prizemoney Increases              Victorian Minimum Prizemoney Increases
 

RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said that the increases were possible due to the positive health of Victorian racing and come following the completion of a strategic prizemoney review throughout the first quarter of 2017.

“Victorian racing is performing well. With great racing on well-presented tracks customer interest in Victorian racing is at record levels this season with wagering growth of 9% and a growing pool of over 60,000 owners. The financial health of our industry is strong and provides the opportunity to make sustainable investments in prizemoney,” Thompson said.

“Our vision is ‘Racing for All’ and there is something for all owners, trainers and jockeys within these prizemoney increases which are spread from Flemington to Buchan.

“The Spring Racing Carnival is the premier racing carnival in Australia and we remain committed to rewarding those owners, trainers and jockeys that support our Carnival which will begin on the first weekend of September with the $1 million Memsie Stakes.

“We are committed to cementing Victoria’s position as the place to race three-year-olds and stayers which is why we’ve focused enhanced investment in those areas, while at the same time increasing standard Saturday metropolitan minimums across the board.

“A horse’s first win can be both its most challenging and rewarding for connections, which is why we’re pleased to increase the minimum prizemoney for maiden races by 10%, while also making an important investment at our grass roots in picnic racing.

“As an industry, we are all committed to equine welfare and jockey welfare and Victoria will come into line with national policy from next season by allocating 1% of prizemoney to each.”

Australian Trainers Association (ATA) Chief Executive, Andrew Nicholl, said, “We know that trainers will welcome this announcement by RV and we’re really pleased that the review process involved significant engagement by RV with the ATA and trainers, with much of that feedback being used to help design the increases announced today.  

“These prizemoney increases offer a really balanced outcome, with increases for the grass roots regional participant through to the metropolitan trainer. It is also great to see an increase to a number of our iconic Victorian Group races.”

Victorian Jockeys Association (VJA) Executive Officer, Matt Hyland, said, “Today’s announcement is indicative of the strength of racing in this state and acknowledges the important role that jockeys play within the industry through the contribution to their welfare.

“It is great to see that both professional and amateur jockeys will get to share in the increases next season.”


Victorian Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association (TROA) Chairman, Jonathan Munz, strongly supported the announced prizemoney increases stating, “TROA has been aggressively pushing for much needed prizemoney increases in Victoria and is pleased that RV has responded positively.

“This is a good result for owners and the industry and reflects an appreciation of the on-going importance of prizemoney to drive betting turnover and attract and retain investment in thoroughbred racing and breeding.

“TROA will continue to lobby to maximise prizemoney for the benefit of owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys and other stakeholders and to ensure the racing industry is run efficiently.”

    

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