Odds man … provincial bookmaker Grant Lynch.Add bookmakers to the endangered species list as racing turns from on-course sport to an off-course one.
Punters have never been better looked after than this year. They have the TAB and a selection of corporate bookmakers to choose from, and the on-course man with the bag has been left behind.
It used to be part of the fabric of a race day to go to the track and “try to take some of Waterhouse’s money”, as one punting friend put it. It once was considered a skill to jump on the right price in a betting ring that was alive with action.
Technology has conspired against bagmen, making it easier to have a bet from home and open accounts. A punter can even turn bookie should he wish – try Betfair.
Our punting friend can sit at home and “try to beat Tom”, the latest member of the Waterhouse dynasty, from the comfort of his lounge room.
His iPad or iPhone has become his chosen weapon, rather than having to jump over a couple of fellow punters and yell out his bet.
The Sydney ring is shrinking, and there is no sign of new blood.
The man on track isn’t the centre of the action – most of it has happened by the time he puts up his price half an hour before a race.
The on-course betting plunge has been consigned to the past, except for special occasions. No one turns up with bags of cash these days, but that just reflects society.
On-course bookmakers still offer a service but they are like a corner store taking on Coles and Woolworths in a part of the industry that continues to grow. These days, on-course bookies have their offices to take bets when they can’t stand at races but they still can’t match the might of international firms.
“I needed to offer my punters a service and try to grow my business,” provincial bookie Grant Lynch said. “I have the office at home, and try to keep it personal. It is a way to keep them happy but it is tough.
“I could go to Sydney and stand there but the risk would be a lot more than at Kembla and Newcastle.
“I actually don’t know how long I can keep doing this, which is sad.”
Racing has made a habit of easing along thinking everything is fine and not moving into the 21st century. Randwick is getting a new grandstand after 40 years to bring creature comfort to the track.
We need to make sure we don’t lose one of its greatest assets – the man on the stand.
NSW bookmakers are hamstrung by the rules, which don’t allow them to offer best prices like their cousins in other states. Their range of betting options is limited. Punters will always go to where they can make the most money. It is an opportunity missed by the state government – more betting in NSW means more cash for the state coffers.
There are several corporate bookmakers with offices around Sydney but their business is based in Darwin, where betting laws are more friendly.
It is a stream of revenue that is lost to the state. By attracting corporates to NSW it could give the industry another boost. These big corporate bookies are the drivers of betting.
There will always be a place for bookies on-course. But the man with his name on the ticket going the way of scribble on a piece of cardboard is becoming an odds-on chance.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.