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The Roar


Reintroduction of fees could be a Racing Victoria own goal

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Roar Rookie
30th November, 2022

Racing Victoria recently announced its intention to reintroduce fees associated with the nomination of horses into races…. “after an extensive review”.

Clearly an internal review judging by the outspoken backlash from owners, trainers and their respective associations. It seems most see this as the removal of something that works for them rather than fixing something that doesn’t.

The justification offered was “the change is designed to improve the nomination-to-acceptance ratio”. That sounds important, but is it? And if so, why are we hearing about it for the first time?

Further, RVL spokesperson Matt Welsh said “while free non-acceptances benefit some trainers and owners some of the time, they create problems for other trainers and owners all of the time.” According to who? Sounds like justifications looking for a problem. As an owner, I have no problem with it ALL OF THE TIME.

Then I read “It would also give greater certainty to punters studying early form”. Really? Before barriers, track conditions and weather patterns? Did I mention that many RVL racing media form/punting ‘experts’ suggest that pre-race day gambling isn’t that responsible? There was also the claim that ‘it would be beneficial to early market betting operators’. Apart from carnival futures, I don’t know any betting agency that produces markets before acceptances.

On many occasions I don’t even see markets published more than 18-24 hours ahead of a race meeting (well after acceptances are published) so who exactly is this going to help? Did I mention that everyone laughs about the paltry amounts that are bet pre-race day and this will do nothing to change that?

Perhaps Mr Welsh could release his financial cost-benefit that outlines the cost to owners versus the forecast wagering revenue benefit to the industry. After all, it is an era of transparency and openness. My quick calculation suggests that this change would cost owners an extra $1.8 million per year. Will this be matched by an uplift in ‘early wagering’ turnover of $36 million, being the amount required to produce a wagering revenue increase of $1.8 million?

I can envision a lot of racing’s modern form/punting experts’ shaking their heads in the negative.

Alleboom ridden by Craig Williams wins the Schweppervescence Plate

(Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

I can’t help but wonder whether this is a classic strategic own goal. Even after allowing for record prizemoney, the cost of racehorse ownership has never been higher. For the administrative body to further increase costs to owners amidst already predicted rising such as feedstock hikes from floods, and the rising costs of living including interest rate expenses, it seems to be completely tone deaf (I’m being polite) and exploitive.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

I suspect that the mountain of trainers and owners – if consulted – would suggest there was a much bigger (fairer) bucket of cash to raid. Perhaps the bucket of the few stables and owners who took home the lion’s share of spring feature prizemoney money. Three stables took home 53 per cent of ALL black type prizemoney. Would anyone really miss it, if the $1.8 million came from the cream rather than the skim milk available to the majority of owners/trainers?

Hmmm, maybe the two sugars and cream brigade.

Given the questionable and untested benefits suggested by Welsh, I wonder whether such an announcement is morally ‘defensible’ given Racing Victoria has just reported an after-tax surplus of $13 million. The proposed introduction of $1.8 million in costs also needs to be considered in the context of the fees and charges already raised by Racing Australia from participants, including owners – a non-profit organisation that almost always makes a profit.

A profit that stems from charging participants more for its services than it costs to administer them. A profit (in 2021 $5.7 million; in 2020 $5.4 million) that can be – and is to a sizeable extent – returned to state racing authorities.


Maybe this suggests that Racing Victoria (and the industry as a whole) are already charging owners too much.

If there is a problem to be fixed as suggested by Welsh, there are other ways to fix it that don’t cost owners $1.8 million more to participate. This seems nothing more than a backdoor way of lifting profit from Racing Operations.

Surely there are better ideas than this?