Don’t tell me how much I can bet or shift the Cox Plate!

I’d be more than a little miffed, I have to say, if somebody – other than me – told me whether or not I could afford to have a bet. 

Just as miffed if Racing Victoria tells me the Cox Plate will be shifted to late November. A decision, it said yesterday, will be made by the end of the month.

Mercifully any such move does not appear to be fait accompli, because it would be a complete nonsense regardless of whether it is one or two races only moved or entails a wholesale reworking of the spring schedule.

I get that RV’s new CEO Andrew Jones and his new executive Matt Welsh are keen to make a mark, but they are missing the target here.

Victorian (and indeed New South Wales) racing is perfectly placed as it is, in October and immediately after the AFL and NRL seasons, to attract a broader audience.

In Victoria, that centres on three iconic races – the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and the Cox Plate: To remove one would simply pave the way for New South Wales to capitalise on the void and, make no mistake, it would.

No sport other than the two major football codes can, these days, expect extended windows of bums on seats and massive mainstream media exposure. Not cricket, not tennis, not golf and not racing.

It is even more unrealistic for racing, given the time needed between carnivals to prepare the star attractions, the best horses for later carnivals. 

As it is we have remarkable engagement all year round and a spring which transitions sweetly into the incidentally successful Cranbourne and Ballarat Cup meetings, which broadens engagement well beyond some fanciful notion that more metropolitan meetings would keep Cup week partygoers more engaged in the sport. 

Racing Victoria says November is identified as a period of great opportunity and if so, capitalising on it demands greater imagination and creativity than moving the Cox Plate which would diminish a traditionally great carnival which Welsh described as “currently outstanding”. If it ain’t broke….

It demands some clever thinking and enhancement of the existing carnival, perhaps by linking major races, via bonuses, with the features staged in Hong Kong and Japan in late November and December. 

Yesterday, also saw the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) hand down a ninth-straight interest rate hike and ever rising interest rates may have the potential to bite at some point, even if racing and breeding, and especially gambling, have often been largely recessionproof.

And this month promises more of interest, with Melbourne hosting the Asian Racing Conference next week and the release of TABcorp’s half yearly report expected on February 21, which may tell us whether its FY 22, 12 per cent wagering revenue decline was, in fact, chiefly the result of Covid-enforced retail closures. 

Following, next month, is the New South Wales state election in March, which has seen much debate on gambling reform. It’s centred on poker machines and their venues, and ranges from cashlessonly betting to betting limits. 

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet, on Monday, outlined his proposed reforms which focus on problem gambling and money laundering. 

That, of course, seems reasonable enough and forgive me if I am being paranoid, but given the nanny state we live in, it would not be a quantum leap to then explore affordability checks for punters which are currently wreaking havoc with UK bettors. 

I cannot believe such dystopian measures have not prompted anarchy in the streets. What next, a limit at the Bottle Shop?

Such checks can surely only be limited to establishing the legitimacy of any income and, as such, would be the responsibility of banking and anti-corruption authorities and even then, your fear is that lines will be blurred.

The situation in the UK is seemingly a dog’s breakfast, with some bookmakers and exchanges demanding personal information from customers on the basis of “formal guidance” from the UK Gambling Commission. 

The UK’s gambling minister Paul Scully apparently allayed some fears when he said that neither government, nor the Gambling Commission, has the right to tell individuals how much they should be allowed to spend on betting. 

However, I’m not entirely convinced given a level of semantics in the debate. He’s since said the reference should be to financial risk checks rather than affordability checks, which still begs the question as to how that may be established without demanding personal data?

This and other wagering issues, especially level played field taxation for all wagering service providers; expanded commingling, national pools and national approaches to problem gambling and on-line gambling advertising may be the subject of spirited debate at next week’s Asian Racing Conference, with one session focused on wagering and with the promise the conference will hear from “new players” in the wagering market. 

Just so long as they all agree nobody is telling me how much I can bet.

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