Recently the entire racing industry has been agog due to the standoff between Bangalore Turf Club and RWITC over commission due to the latter by BTC. Bangalore has offered to pay Rs. 2.5 Crores which falls way short of the 23% of BTC’S turnover on RWITC racing’s off course betting that RWITC is demanding. The result has been the disconnection by RWITC of their signal to BTC of the ongoing Pune meeting. RWITC is adamant that BTC is ripping them off and are hell bent on taking what they feel is their fair due. On the flip-side is BTC’s argument that in what is supposed to be a reciprocal arrangement they get only 50 odd Lakhs from RWITC for the telecast of their signal. In other words BTC feels that the difference of 2 Crores or so, that is the eventual amount being paid is more than enough for RWITC’s signal. To further compound RWITC’s problems the new turf authority Mysore Race Club has decided to back BTC in this case.
Let’s examine this issue as in all honesty it sort of dovetails a lot of points that I’ve written about in this blog, the useless and emasculated Turf Authorities of India, the decline of RWITC as India’s premier racing centre and the stupid approach taken under the aegis of the club system.
RWITC is making a huge error in my opinion as they have a very inflated opinion of their own worth as well as that of their product. The unfortunate and bitter truth is that in today’s scenario of Indian racing RWITC is a bit like the old fable; The Emperor’s New Clothes, all show and no go. The bitter fact is that their legal betting turnover annually is under 100 Crore, their Stake money paid out is half that of most other clubs in India. They are running into losses on a year on year basis, they lose money on their core area of operation ie racing. Their cash reserves are being depleted at an exponential rate, simply put they have taken a very wrong approach in this case. Maybe they should be expending their energy in making a proper case to the Maharashtra Government to reduce their taxes on betting so that they can curb the thriving illegal bookie trade in the state which ironically not only costs the club but the state exchequer too. On India’s most popular racing website; indiarace.com’s horse talk forum a user writing under the name Naveed made this calculation. While the eventual real loss to RWITC may not be such a high figure, every rupee that the club loses is added on to the already spiralling losses that are being made annually.
Bangalore Turf Club on the other hand have no serious financial issues such as losses to face up to. They are turning over 1800 Crores annually on their totalisator ops. This figure is way more than the rest of Indian racing combined. Their argument is that BTC has worked very hard to bring their tote turnover to what it is today. They feel that what they are paying for RWITC’s signal is enough and that RWITC instead of getting their own house in order are instead trying to piggyback BTC’s efficiency. They do have a point when they say that RWITC sold their signal for 1 Crore for telecast in English betting shops so why is it a problem when BTC is willing to pay more than double that for the same privilege.
RWITC’s claim is that the mutual understanding among the Turf Authorities of India is that 23% of betting turnover must be paid out to the club giving their signal. From my investigations it appears this is a verbal understanding among all the Turf Authorities and there isn’t any written contract. Further this agreement was made years ago before computerization amped up totalisator betting. Lets see what the ramifications of this situation are going to be. Currently RWITC and BTC/Mysore by mutual consent do not clash when they race. During the Bangalore Summer Meeting, Bangalore races on Saturdays and Sundays until August, when Pune takes over the weekend and BTC races on Thursday and Friday into the second week of August. This pattern continues right through the Mysore main season which runs contiguous along with Pune. In the winter when racing shifts to Bombay and Bangalore runs its winter meeting, RWITC races on Thursdays and Sundays while BTC takes Fridays and Saturdays. Hyderabad Race Club races on Sundays and Mondays as they refused to give up their holiday fixture every week. If this stand off continues both BTC and RWITC will race on weekends and the Mysore winter fixtures will clash with RWITC on Thursdays. In other words they won’t miss RWITC’s product.
Another factor which was non existent in the Indian racing scene is the future emergence of Madras Race Club. It’s been dormant or rather, dead for the past three decades, now they’re starting to step back towards normalcy as the Oligarch who controlled, rigged and wrecked it is no more. Madras Race Club (MRC) conducted a competitive Ooty season this year over spring and summer and from all reports BTC and Mysore turned a neat profit from their off course betting. The coming Madras Winter season is going to be even bigger and soon we might have a scenario like the old days. Where there were three basic clubs; RWITC, Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) and South India Turf Club which over the years broke up into BTC, Hyderabad Race Club (HRC), MRC and Mysore Race Club. The South Indian Clubs have always kind of got along with each other, RWITC has always been connected but somewhat aloof while RCTC which was the main racing club of Asia in its heyday has trod its own path albeit keeping it good with their other Indian counterparts. There are going to be two race days per week over the winter in Chennai and MRC are going to be looking to fit back into an already crowded racing calendar in India. The absence of RWITC from BTC/Mysore is going to enable them to fill in to a vacant spot further isolating RWITC.
All the aforementioned clubs come under the aegis of the Turf Authorities Of India, the organization under whom all of Indian racing theoretically exists. The TAI is supposed to be the body which makes sure that there is harmony among all clubs and that everyone is mutually beneficial to each other with the aim of benefitting the sport as a whole. Unfortunately the reality is that the TAI is a, “Dabba” organization with no real executive or legislative power that meets a few times every year and pretty much does or achieves nothing. They have failed to take the sport forward and every club pulls in its own direction to the detriment of the sport of racing as a whole. Indian racing has regressed over the course of the last century and no new racetrack has opened up in the last 50 years or so. Our facilities are lacking whether its for punters, horses or the general good of racing. The club system ensures a status quo of stagnation and the bottom line is rarely looked at since a profit motive is lacking, as such poor decisions are made time and again. The TAI failed to prevent the downslide and destruction at Madras Race Club, proof that nobody really gives a damn about sport in any sense. Similarly they are yet to present a cogent case as regards GST to the Indian Government the next big problem looming for the sport of racing.
RWITC is banking on the fact that their product is superior to all other clubs, even if this is indeed the case from a punter’s standpoint it makes no difference whatsoever. While punters will miss punting on RWITC in the short term over a period of time they will get accustomed to whatever racing product is put in front of them. I can see a scenario where we can have 7 day a week racing without RWITC even being there. Betting is a simple business, the punters will bet on whatever product is presented to them as long as it is competitive enough, quality is important to geeks like me but to every punter, a “B” class race and a Classic race are all the same. The BTC handicapper has used this reasoning to create the system he has in Bangalore; good for business but destructive for sport. Any business in the world is simple, at the end of the day money talks and bullshit walks. RWITC is living in a fool’s paradise, BTC/Mysore will suffer in the short term but in the long term things will level off. If RWITC was a business, their CEO would have tread cautiously in this case knowing fully well where they stand financially. RWITC is willing to sink chunks of money into the Gallops case but unfortunately they’re hell bent on jacking themselves in this particular case. Simply put the minnow aka RWITC is taking on the Shark that is BTC. Perceptions never necessarily have to be the truth and RWITC’s perceived might is actually a, “Phus Pataka” as they lack the financial clout to be the leader in the sport of racing. Every other club in India has cut it’s cloth according to the situation that they’re in, RWITC on the other hand have lived in La La land and now the pigeons are coming home to roost. In any business and more so a betting business financial clout is what counts in the end, something that RWITC lacks. RWITC risks becoming a peripheral player in Indian racing if they start cutting their signal to the best betting set up in racing and inversely losing 122 race days of profit making off course racing from BTC/Mysore. RWITC is facing a, “Kodak moment” at one time everybody was using their film for photography and suddenly digital cameras arrived. In this metaphor, the digital camera is Tote betting!
To sum things up it’s time that the TAI took the lead and made the concerned parties sit down and hammer out a compromise. May be a wise head like HRC chairman R Surender Reddy could arbiter the peace between the warring parties. In this case RWITC will lose a lot and BTC/Mysore will lose a bit but sadly the sport of racing will be the biggest loser.