Nothing illustrates better the extent to which the thinking of the Australian racing industry and its preferred wagering partner TABCorp is out of date, than its attitude to lay wagering.

Chief Executive of TABCorp's wagering division Michael Piggott, said: "Betting to lose is a form of wagering that is not acceptable to Tabcorp and will not be tolerated at the TAB.

"The concept of attempting to bet to lose is un-Australian, impractical and totally unacceptable to the racing industry.

However Australia's newest TAB, AusTOTE, believes such attitudes are out of date with the requirements of the modern, internet savvy punter and goes out of its way to provide such a facility for the favourite in each race.

"AusTOTE will nominate a runner in a race that can be backed to lose. The lay runner will be selected having regard to race markets and will normally be the race favourite although late betting may alter favouritism. In effect it is a 'field versus the lay runner' bet", said AusTOTE CEO Mike King.

Directing his comments at the current bete-noir of TABCorp, Betfair, Piggott went on to say :-

"Betfair has suggested that a punter can bet a horse to lose by betting the remainder of the field to win. Such a scheme is fraught with risk as different investments must be calculated for each runner and then placed simultaneously while the expected return is unpredictable as tote odds are not fixed and fluctuate and the amount of the tote deduction detracts from the scam."

In contrast, AusTOTE's online betting module facilitates the lay bet by automatically spreading the punter's investment across win bets on all other horses in the field.

"We do not regard betting against the favourite as a scam", says King. "The modern punter uses screen trading with a number of operators as a virtual betting ring. He is trying to back and lay horses at different odds in the same race in order to lock in a profit, no matter who wins."

Nothing could better illustrate the difference between the 50 year old punting model of the TAB's and the modern approach to trading odds facilitated by AusTOTE and betting exchanges like Betfair.

"With our lower commission ranging from 2 to 5% its much easier for our clients to lock in a winning result than using the traditional TAB's with a 17% takeout. Traditional TAB's expect the punter to place his bet and wait forever to see a result", said King. "Our client profile are bored to tears by that approach. They expect their punting to be an intellectual challenge and they get almost as much fun out of chasing the best odds as they do backing a winner."

Not so TABCorp, who seem to want to dumb down punting to the lowest intelligence of its client base, combined with draconian action against any punter seeking to use modern punting techniques.

According to Piggott, "Tabcorp is not aware of any betting of this nature but should it come to the company's attention, Tabcorp would refuse to accept such bets and would take action to close any betting account where this was seen to take place."

"The matter would also be reported to racing stewards and a suspicious transaction report would be prepared for TAB investigators to consider and a report would be sent to AUSTRAC, the Commonwealth statutory authority which is charged with compiling financial intelligence."

"As Australia's premier gambling and entertainment group, Tabcorp is totally committed to working with the racing authorities to maintain the highest levels of integrity in the industry."

It has probably escaped Piggott's attention that some of his largest clients do actually use TABCorp accounts to bet in such a manner, not only for traditional win and place betting but also with the "exotics" - trifecta, quadrella and so on. Given that he admitted in an interview on Melbourne radio station Sport927 this week that only one or two such referrals are made each year, perhaps TABCorp's public stance on the 'betting to lose' issue is more to do with taking the moral high ground in the anti-exchange debate than actually stamping out the practice.

AusTOTE's King sees no problem in working with racing authorities if lay transactions with AusTOTE became the subject of concern.

"There have been some criticisms levelled at the lay feature not the least of which has been that the ability to back a horse to lose raises integrity issues; that a bet may be had on a horse which might not be allowed to run on its merits. AusTOTE’s response to this is there has always been an ability to back the field to beat a particular runner.

AusTOTE has also stated publicly that it is more than willing to open its books to an official inquiry into the running of a race. Unlike some other betting establishments, betting can only be conducted with AusTOTE by opening a betting account and being properly identified using the 100 points score method established by AUSTRAC. There are no cash betting facilities."

So the battle lines are clearly drawn between a racing industry/TAB alliance with a 50 year old product and newer players who seek to use new technology to make things more challenging and interesting for the modern punter. Between those on the one hand who want betting to be as unexciting as possible and see new technology as purely a way of reducing transaction costs without sharing the savings with the punter and those in the other camp who see a way to deliver a better product at a lower cost.

It is indeed unfortunate that Australia's racing industry has no more modern alternative to offer the punter which will allow it to compete with the other forms of gambling which have seen its market share decline from 70% to10% over the past 2 decades.

© Cyberhorse 2020 Bill Saunders Published 17/09/04