In a landmark decision today in Australia the doors might have flung open, as racings restrictive monopoly slowly loses its grip with 21st century punters; and the courts.
The High Court ruled that WA Racing's decision to make betting with Betfair illegal was a restriction of trade.
This can mean many things, but to punters it opens up a new avenue for them to bet, and it also allows betfair to be licensed by racing authorities. This is not the first time we have heard this from our friends downunder. A couple of years ago, betfair was licensed by Tasmania to offer racing. So far it has received rave reviews, as they have contributed to the sport, have offered bookmakers alternatives in laying off action, and most of all, have offered the bettor lower prices and a better chance to win.
What you will hear about this from now on is easy to predict. You will hear the same thing that was said during the fight to get it licensed in Tasmania. We all know that racing, or in reality all monopolies, hold on to their slice until you pry it out of their hands. It is the only way they know how to do business, and competing is a something that has never been asked of them. So you will hear demagoguery and fear-mongering that is usually reserved for a terse US presidential campaign.
Here is a primer for what to look for from racing:
1. They are pirates that do not contribute to racing.
2. It will kill racing and purses will be hurt, so much so that tracks will close.
3. You can bet to lose and that shakes the integrity of the game to the core.
Get ready for it.
The response is simple. Don't buy it. It is a complete load of malarkey.
First, let's look at "they are pirates and contribute nothing to racing". Untrue. Betfair contributes 20% of gross profits to purses, sponsors stakes races and promotes our dying product to millions. That is in writing, and that is a part of their license fees.
Second, "racing will close down because revenues will fall". Again, complete bull. In Tasmania and elsewhere bookmakers have stated that betfair has not cannibalized their wagering at all. In fact they have said it opens a whole new market with new punters, and many of them use it as a tool to lay off bets. Wagering in traditional ways (in my last check of the news) actually went up. In fact the chief steward of Victorian racing said this when asked about the betfair experience in Tasmania (from the Hobart Record): “None of the issues of concern before Betfair became licensed over here have come to fruition."
Third, "integrity is breached". Poppycock. There have been riders and owners set down and placed on trial by spotting wagering patterns that the authorities in racing would not even be able to see.
Many of these questions are already answered on betfair's corporate site.
I hope, after the yelling and screaming, racing downunder gets to work. This will open racing to a whole new set of customers; customers that would never even think of playing racing, customers who are price-sensitive, play poker, and are looking for new things to play. Betfair is like a video game with money. It is fun, fresh and it is just what this industry sorely needs.
Click here to look at their setup in Tasmania. Click one of the races on the left and look what pops up. Free statistics, in play markets, the whole shootin-match. Click "form" and a past performances for the horses are there - free programs for all. Click stats, and you can toggle a database right on your desktop, for historical stuff. There is even harness racing being bet on, although I must say that is a funky icon. Does it seem fun and fresh? Is it designed by cutting edge marketers who we need badly in racing? Does it look like the Woodbine site to you guys, or one designed to get people energized about playing racing that is there to help you win?
As we said in the Stagecoach post below, we can not stop change when that change is market-driven. We can slow it down, and we can yell and scream about it, but in the end we will not stop the free market and the will of the customer. The stagecoach builders could not stop cars, we could not enforce prohibition, the pen and paper could not stop the computer.
Racing will not stop betfair. I suggest they get off their duffs and be a part of it; they might just realize that with a strong partnership and cross-promotion, we can grow our fading game by opening up our markets to a whole new betting customer.
PS: I just did a quick scan and guess what? It is already starting. A news story just out called "Betfair could cripple racing" The powers that be are many things; and predictable is certainly one of them.
PPS: I changed the site layout and graphics tonight. Not sure if I like it, or you do. But you have to stay fresh, I think. Can't let things pass you by. I also updated my odds for the North America Cup, and did a power rating update on horses in training. Southwind Tempo vaulted up the list.