TO render this Racing “Brain Game” of studing form popular again, and making it a viable wagering pursuit for intelligent investors into the future, customers must be given a surfeit of information. Transparency is key! And complete integrity in racing itself is absolutely vital, too!

The Restructuring Task Team is faced with tough business decisions within the next week which will determine the path chosen by SA racing, writes MARK VAN DEVENTER.

This humble psychology graduate is out of his depth debating high level corporate wheeling and dealing. What is obvious, however, to anyone with even a tiny dose of marketing suss is this – whoever ends up operating racing in SA, must meet the needs of punters if the game is to prove sustainable.

To quote Bennet Liebman, a staunch NYRA Board member and wise advisor to New York Governors, “What we want in a franchise holder is what is best for the fans of horse racing. That means the best quality racing at the best price, at the best facilities, and with an assurance of fairness in the racing.… it’s the one sport where the fans through their wagering dollars are true participants in the game. If we aren’t working for the fans of racing…. we’re not working at all.”

There is no coordinated SA horseplayer advocacy group to represent punters interests here. It’s hoped that proper marketing studies are being done into what punters actually want in SA, but some of their wishes would likely mirror those of fellow bettors around the world. Here are a few suggestions/pleas to the authorities:

Reduce Take- Out: this is a political hot-potato especially in a fraught SA context, but an extortionate 25% exotic take out makes a tough game practically impossible to beat even for sophisticated Tote bettors. No wonder sensible players migrate to fixed odds betting at a significantly lower tax.

Even worse is when bettors leave the game alltogether due to creeping losses or take Open Bets to try maintain profitability. Lower taxes, combined with a fair and judicious use of rebates based on volumes bet, would boost turnover with winning players increasing their bets and losing players surviving longer. Give payoff bonuses to attract on course attendance.

The industry should run ongoing Educational Programs for fans: racing is difficult to master with a steep learning curve that deters people out for a quick gaming fix. Use the specialist racing channels and on- line resources to run fan-friendly programs where experts pass on their knowledge about racing’s fascinating gambling intricacies.

Celebrate Winners: By turning sharp Poker pros into minor TV celebrities, interest in that card game grew big time. Nobody is saying racing is easy and indeed the vast majority of players will lose. However, portraying it as a mugs game for idiotic gambling junkies is counter- productive. To illustrate, Golf is also difficult to play well with only 1% of players possessing handicaps of 3 or less but that does not mean less capable recreational players should pack away their clubs. By showcasing the best PGA or European Tour Players, recreational hackers are inspired, and participation in Golf is widened. Racing can do the same by promoting the skillful accomplishments of consistently successful betting pros.

Provide accurate Work Out information, videos of training gallops/trials and supply data on horse’s shifting weights: the available form guides have improved significantly over the years but a void that needs to be filled is providing open info about the shifting physical condition of racehorses. Trainers opinions, no matter how well intentioned, are not sufficient – real objective work out data is required.

Sectional Timing is essential: get systems in place which enable punters to know precisely how fast horses are going at different stages of the race. Athletics, Motor-Racing, Downhill slalom skiing – you name any type of sport that literally involves “racing” – split second timing is integral to understanding that sport. Without such core data in horse racing, the product is debased and form study is reduced to guesswork.

Stride Length data can help as well: this is a relatively new field measuring strides and cadence (frequency). Certain top trainers use it to understand ability and distance preferences – provide that info to customers, preferably for free. Thankfully, there are plenty of freely available resources, yet punters are already paying heavily for the privilege of betting via mandated taxes, so why should they also have to pay extra for helpful info on which they base their decisions?

There are many other solutions that can help improve the lot of horseplayers and by extension, ensure the sustainability of racing in SA.

The range of online betting options and ease of watching races @ home from all across the globe is one of the great modern advances for racing enthusiasts. As a pioneer in on- line exchange betting and live streaming, Interbet has been at the forefront of some of these positive shifts in South Africa.

* Mark van Deventer is an avid student OF Andy Beyer’s renowned speed figures. Mark uses his insights based on time-based analysis to convey wellresearched handicapping opinions. He has built up a reputation of integrity in the media as handicapper with the ability to unearth live runners at juicy prices. Van Deventer currently writes a column for INTERBET, and this article is used by permission.

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