Punters to lose out amid raft of Racing NSW prizemoney increases

Racing NSW announced another raft of prizemoney increases on Wednesday, but the reaction hasn’tt been entirely favourable… especially from punters, who will yet again be forced to pay the price.

It’s been an incredible few years for prizemoney boosts in the state, but it does beg the following question: how long will the good times last?

At the very least there are some headwinds on the horizon.

But lets start with the positives from the $30 million prizemoney package.

INCREASES AT THE LOWER END

Prizemoney for picnic races has gone from $5,000 to $7,000, country races received bumps of $1,000 or $2,000, and two races at each meeting will be restricted to country trainers only and carry a purse of $35,000.

theres also more money for the Highways and Midways (increasing from $100,000 to $120,000) as well as boosts to the strappers bonus and Equine Welfare Fund.

INCREASES AT THE HIGHER END

At the other end of the scale theres been significant cash thrown at stakes races, but whether all the increases are a wise use of funds is debatable.

Racing NSW have certainly planted their flag in the ground when it comes to being the premier state for sprint racing during the spring, and the launch of the Sportsbet Sydney Sprint Series – which includes a $6 million bonus (fully funded by the bookmaker) and an array of prizemoney increases – only strengthens that position.

The autumn carnival wasn’tt forgotten about either, with the Queen Elizabeth ($4 million to $5 million) and the Doncaster Mile ($3 million to $4 million) receiving the most significant boosts – although its doubtful this will have an effect on the quality of the fields.

NEW INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT FUND

Wednesday’s press conference wasn’t just about prizemoney. It also included the announcement of an infrastructure project fund of $125 million, $70 million of which will come from NSW state government grants.

The aim here is to improve racing and training tracks – something participants and punters have been very vocal about – as well as stabling facilities and horse welfare initiatives.

POINTS OF CONTENTION

For all the positives there are also a few major points of contention, including the amount devoted to prizemoney and the allocation of the increases.

then theres the most disgruntled – and rather important – group of all … punters.

On the first point, if the money is there then it definitely should be pumped back into the industry, but you have to wonder if the funds might have been better spent future-proofing the industry by allocating more expenditure to infrastructure.

Fund allocations like this will always spark debate due to different stakeholders having different priorities, but there is a valid influenza with the amount of money being funneled into the top end races.

SQUEEZE PUT ON PUNTERS

As for punters, this latest round of prizemoney increases comes off the back of the NSW state government’s announcement that the Point of Consumption (PoC) tax would rise from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

Yet again the squeeze will be put on punters, with higher market percentages making winning tougher than it already is.

Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) CEO Justin Madden had this to say to racenet in June: “Increasing Point of Consumption taxes and handing out “sweetheart deals” is not a victimless process – especially when these deals are agreed behind closed doors. Ultimately, it will be the people racing employs and punters who will pay the price.”

And this is where the industry needs to be wary.

PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL (AND RISE IN MARKET PERCENTAGE)

Racing NSW CEO Peter Vlandys touched on this point on Wednesday, acknowledging that racing had experienced record turnover during COVID times and that a little dip was now expected.

vlandys assured us that this has been taken into account.

But the dip could be larger than expected given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the uncharted territory that is life after lockdown.

What we do know is that the cost of living is rising.

We also know that betting markets are worsening for punters.

The latter will be an interesting watch.

IF AND WHEN THE RIVER RUNS DRY

Recreational betting in Australia has been largely inelastic with price comparison providing less important than anticipated, but there will be a tipping point for many.

Thanks to punters the tap has been flowing freely of late, with governments and industry bodies reaping the rewards.

But that steady stream could turn into a trickle in the coming years, at which point announcements like Wednesday’s will seem extravagant and some of the allocations unsustainable.

On the whole theresa lot to celebrate in this latest development, but itIt’s important that principle racing authorities such as Racing NSW don’t take punters for granted… lest the all-important funds start to dry up.

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