….For whom the bell tolls!!!

Bangalore Derby weekend is over and we’ve had a great weekend of high class and high octane racing. The BTC facility is cramped and uncomfortable but man does the city of Bangalore embrace the Derby! The financials of the club are good the aesthetics and setup awful. However banged up everything else in BTC might be; poorly maintained track and surface, poor officialdom, poor starting staff, pathetic stabling but…. the crowd bangs in their cash on the tote and as the old saying goes money makes the mare go round! BTC turned over in excess of Rs. 17 Crore on Derby Day, the club gets a neat 68 Lakhs for their 4%: QED! Lets look at the inverse of this situation and that situation is RWITC. Everything around the sport is good but the financials? To say they are abysmal is an understatement.

First there is the politics; it boggles the mind as to why anybody respectable would like to put their name against such a financial disaster but come election time and we have a lot of very influential men ready to fight like kindergarten kids to be on the committee. Once there, nobody seems to really give a flying f&@k as to the good of the sport but these successful and honourable men will behave like crabs in a basket, ready to pull each other down as soon as any one of them try to pull their attitudes out of the mire.
It’s a truly sad state of affairs but when their world class starter Jehangir Sayed gives the, “they’re off” call at those lovely Steriline starting gates, the club loses money by the simple act of conducting their core business ie running a race. It’s really sad when the club makes money from weddings, catering, equine hospital, The Stud Book, the sales and every other non racing activity but loses money by the simple act of running a live race. They pack in massive crowds for The Indian Derby but in the whole scheme of things lose money by conducting racing on India’s best attended race day. The government’s commission has been cascading downwards over the years yet the club cannot or has not been able to present a proper case for a reduction of tax. Added to this is the fact that on top of the 20% the club has some pretty unviable take out rates on their pools;

WIN 10% 20% 30%

PLACE 10% 20% 30%

SHP 10% 20% 30%

FORECAST 35% 20% 55%

QUINELLA 35% 20% 55%

TANALA 35% 20% 55%

TREBLE 35% 20% 55%

JACKPOT 24% 20% 44%

SUPER JKPT 35% 20% 55% 

So if you try the Forecast or Quinella bets only 45 paise of your Rupee goes into the pool. I’d say that as a result the public is deserting the tote for the simple reason that they are being ripped off! There are solutions at hand but nobody is willing to put their necks on the line and put these into action as these solutions are not going to be popular.  

Lets start with the number of fixtures; RWITC boasts the maximum total stake money paid out over a year but this is spread out over something like 60 or 70 fixtures over a calendar year. As a result the stake money paid out is truly pathetic. The April meetings at Mumbai solve no purpose except giving the low end stock chances to win and to pull of some punts.  With Madras Race Club coming around now to competitive racing it’s about time they took their Ooty signal instead, for off course betting, through the month of April. This would mean fewer fixtures and a saving to the club. Apparently Bangalore and Mysore did rather well this year with Ooty racing. Racing is a sport and in a proper competitive sport excellence ought to be the goal. When you card too much average and bad racing it dilutes the overall product. By cutting fixtures RWITC would ensure tighter and more competitive racing. In a day and age where the perceived to be inferior Hyderabad pays out well in excess of 4 Lakhs for a maidens race the far tougher and higher quality racing centre; RWITC pays less than half of that for theirs. 
Thursday racing at Bombay is very poorly attended maybe racing every other Thursday would be something to think about. Bangalore doesn’t race twice a week in their winter season because they find it effects their field quality. Instead they race twice every other week. RWITC must realise they cannot be racing just for the sake of racing when it costs them money.
Of course the one thing and the most important at that, which they do need to do is to sort out their totalizator. I’ve written about it before but the 20% tax is only benefitting the illegal bookmaker since everyone bets with them at half or no tax rather than bet legally through the club. The government has been very unfair on RWITC but they’re huge sufferers in the bargain too. Karnataka and Telangana/Andhra have sensible tax regimes on their betting as a result the government gets a great return too from their race clubs. Well over 100 Crore vs 18 Crore in Maharashtra annually. This is THE core issue and problem and it must be sorted out. It’s incumbent on the committee to address this and put all politics aside or else the bell is tolling for the club it’s just a matter of time.
One hopes against hope but as things stand RWITC is staring down an abyss and nobody really seems concerned about it. The eulogy was written way back in the 80s when BTC under PG Belliappa and HRC under R Surender Reddy decided to have a proper dialogue with their state’s governments and get their taxes reduced so that they could control the money bet and push their totes. RWITC in the meantime kept on sleeping and that has led to the situation where the club is on life support today. One hopes it doesn’t happen but their cash reserves are dwindling fast and the 20 Crore plus operating loss the club is making has simply made the sport unsustainable in Maharashtra. Owners are under immense pressure, since it’s nigh impossible to pay for a racing operation and run for stake money. I’m reading leading American horseman Barry Irwin of Team Valor’s book Derby Innovator, one of the best quotes of his in the book reads, ” All around the world where prize money is meager, the incidence of corruption is higher, as horsemen and jockeys manipulate their horses to set up betting coups because cashing bets keeps them above water financially.” Rings really true doesn’t it?


2 thoughts on “….For whom the bell tolls!!!

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