Day At The Track

Commingling of pools on hold

11:31 AM 03 Jul 2015 NZST
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Punters who chase the big quaddie pools in Australia will be the worst affected by a two-month hiatus in commingling that started on Wednesday.

For the last eight years New Zealand punters have enjoyed being able to bet into large Australian pools, with the chance of striking much bigger dividends.

But for the next two months at least, while officials negotiate a new agreement, there will be no commingling of quaddies, first4s and quinellas on Australian races, meaning only New Zealand money will be in the pools, making them vastly smaller.

On Tuesday, punters were betting into a quaddie pool of more than $125,000 at Geelong. But on Wednesday the pot Kiwis were offered at Warwick Farm was a pitiful $5203 compared to the one Australians chased of more than $70,000.

And, while the TAB believes its turnover will hold up pretty well. with win and place pools still combined, punters are saying the opposite.

In an announcement that has seen punters vent on social media threatening to give up betting or open an Australian account, the TAB revealed there would be no more commingling of the popular exotic bet types until it reached a new agreement with Tabcorp in Australia.

The TAB's agreement, in force since May 30, 2007, expired on Tuesday and with no new deal in place yet, a "transitional" arrangement until August 31 allows commingling into Australian pools only on win and place betting.

Wagering consultant Martin Saunders said the TAB had been caught up in the tension between Tabcorp and Sky Channel over broadcasting rights.

After Racing Victoria signed a five-year free-to-air deal with Seven West Media, New Zealand's television partner Sky in Australia had blacked out all Victorian racing. Outside 92 TAB outlets in Victoria, New Zealand was the only country watching Victorian racing live, Saunders said.

"Our suite of agreements are all linked and the rights to broadcast Victorian racing go through a lot of those agreements," Saunders said.

Chief executives and negotiation teams from the New Zealand Racing Board and Tabcorp have been in discussions for the past 18 months and, while Saunders said in an ideal world a new agreement would have been brokered by now, he said the TAB was determined to get the best possible deal for New Zealand racing.

It was hoped an agreement could be reached by the end of August.

Saunders believed the "short-term compromise" would result in little damage to the industry's crucial turnover.

"As much as 70 per cent of our betting in Australia is win and place (plus trifectas, which aren't commingled because we have a higher take-out rate).

"The majority of our turnover will be maintained. And there's no change to the New Zealand situation – Australians can still bet into our pools."

But if figures from Wednesday's racing are anything to go by, the TAB could be in for a nasty shock.

Multiples punters must have been turned off in droves when just $343 was invested here in the first four on the opening race at Ipswich. The trifecta in the same race, picking only the first three home, paid $737.

At Ballarat, despite a $14 shot winning the first race, the first four dividend was again less than the trifecta, declared at just $376, the entire pool, while it paid $4747 in Australia.  

Later in the day the situation had hardly improved. At the main meeting, Warwick Farm, just $1240 was wagered here on the first four in race four (compared with more than $9300 on Tabcorp), punters obviously wise to the terrible pools and not willing to risk their money on a difficult bet type with no hope of a reasonable return.   

Saunders said while the TAB was aware of the appeal of betting into big pools, surprisingly commingling with Hong Kong and its gigantic pools hadn't seen a large jump in betting.

And Saunders said some people might argue it was easier to win a quaddie with a $10,000 pool than one with lots more players betting into a $150,000 pool.

But that view was quickly dismissed by a few serious quaddie punters.

Just like Lotto players were attracted by multi-million dollar pots, racing fans sought big quaddie pools.

"I won't be betting into anything in Australia that's not commingled, simple as that," said one punter not prepared to be at the mercy of small, volatile pools.

Saunders would not be drawn on the financial benefit to New Zealand of commingling but in the TAB's annual report at the time the deal was signed, it predicted "significant benefit to the industry".

"The Board has guaranteed an additional $12 million funding in the first season. Greater earnings are expected to accrue in the following seasons," according to the report.

"The projected earnings will flow through to the industry in the form of increased race stakes."

Saunders said the push on terminating Pick6 pools this month would help punters who liked chasing big pots – but the initiative was unrelated to the commingling issue.

Barry Lichter

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