That seems to be that in terms of racecourse bookmaking. A few will probably survive, in glorified captivity, conserved for preservation purposes to show future generations what dinosaur betting used to be like before the digital meteorite struck. But others already look to be pretty much fossilised.
If that sounds a bit OTT, try talking to a few on-course bookies and rising a smile out of them in terms of their long-term career prospects. In fact the only way to do that is probably offering cash for their pitch. Most of them won’t cost much, certainly not after last week.
First of all came the statistical whammy of HRI’s review for the first half of 2012 which showed another dramatic drop in on-course betting turnover and a stark forecast by the end of the year of a near sixty per cent drop in overall trade since 2007 for those men and women that stand on the boxes.
No business can survive that kind of slide. Talking to a few of them, there seems to be desperate fatalism, generally expressed along the lines of “we’re f—ed.” Even the prospect of a good Galway is being regarded as a temporary reprieve.
And even that might be more temporary than previously imagined judged by the reaction to the new Betting Bill.
Bookmakers ain’t happy and sound like it. The various spokespeople for the exchanges sound resigned. That’s significant. Translating bookmaker speak is a tricky business but resignation is usually a façade for delighted happiness. The latter of course has never been publicly expressed by any kind of bookmaker anywhere.
A fifteen per cent tax on the exchanges’ gross profits, as well as an extension of the one per cent betting duty to on-line and off-shore bookmakers, should tidy things up in terms of strict balance-sheet accounting although whether or not it will provide the financial panacea Irish racing hopes is debatable.
Whether or not it will also accelerate the decline of on-course bookmaking is debatable too, but that is a debate with very real short-term consequences for bookmakers and the flavour of the game here.
According to HRI figures, that flavour is experienced by an average attendance figure of 3,139 people. That’s a five per cent drop on the corresponding period of time in 2011 but in itself still sounds pretty good.
Except on what basis is that figure reached? Are we talking paying customers through the turnstiles or is such a figure the result of lumping everyone, non-paying professionals etc, into the mix.
It’s one of the oldest chestnuts in the game that crowd figures can fluctuate in proportion to the gastric fluctuations of the various racecourse managements. That is of course denied vehemently. And yet the suspicion remains.
Admittedly this corner is an infrequent race-goer these days but an average of 3,139 seems remarkably good.
Only those involved know for certain if there’s a touch of wishful thinking involved. As one wise observer pointed out, maybe a way of finding out for sure is to work out the average admission price, multiply it by the admission totals and then have a peep at the books!
Bookmaker odds suggest Camelot is something of a good thing to collect the Triple Crown in the St Leger but it may not turn out like that in the race itself judged by Great Heavens’ Irish Oaks display.
She does appear ground-dependant but even allowing for that the Gosden filly put in a remarkable performance, dropping back to near-last inside the two pole and then accelerating to such effect that there was three lengths back to Shirocco Star at the line.
William Buick had the air of a young man who’d just got out of jail, and especially if there is cut in the ground at Doncaster, Great Heavens will be a potent threat to Camelot.
The vagaries of the stewarding system in Ireland got illustrated again in the Oaks however.
Johnny Murtagh on Shirocco Star cut off Joseph O’Brien and Was just as they appeared to be rallying on the inside. It was nailed on Murtagh would get days, and he appeared lucky to receive just two.
But Shirocco Star held on to second, primarily it seems because young O’Brien went into the stewards room admitting he wasn’t sure if Was would have done better without the interference. Maybe it was youthful naivety but it’s not hard to imagine an older head not making it as easy for the officials on duty.
And why should a jockey’s contribution in an enquiry carry that sort of weight?
Wouldn’t it be easier and more clear-cut for all concerned, as well as encouraging cleaner riding and jockeys becoming more wary of taking a chance, if something like the French or American system was in play?
Shirocco Star would have been immediately placed behind Was, and everyone would know why. Or is that too straight-forward?