NSW Premier Mike Baird today announced that the NSW State Government are going to shut down Greyhound Racing in NSW from July 1st 2017.
Firstly, the last meeting at Wenty Park is going to be a cracker. Will be a crowd as big as the halcyon days of the 60’s and 70’s where you couldn’t move in the Glebe venue. We will be there to hear the lure whirl for the last time, the yapping puppies chomping at the bit to chase that fluffy lure that is meant to emulate……a rabbit! Therein lies the problem.
Secondly – did Greyhound Racing have this coming? For so long there was rumour and innuendo that swirls around racetracks about live baiting, yet nothing ever appeared to be done, let alone anyone get caught. That was until the Four Corners expose that showed shocking footage of live baiting in the education of greyhounds. This caused one heck of a furore nationally, as the program covered the actions of many, in several states. Board members resigned, indeed whole Boards were sacked, high profile trainers faced criminal charges and all in all the Greyhounds industry descended into mayhem.
Yet what was the impact on turnover – the lifeblood of the greyhound industry? It went up. Maybe this was the reaction by punters whom believe that the greyhound racing became ‘clean’ overnight and was more trustworthy. Who knows. You only have to look at the share price of Tatts (TTS) and TABCORP (TAH) today to know the impact it is going to have on a popular race day filler, where people get their punting hit in one quick, 30 second shot. Greyhound turnover has skyrocketed in recent years as people seek this quick punting hit, whilst twiddling their thumbs in between harness or thoroughbred events. The latter two codes have actually been subsidised by greyhound racing in NSW, as the greys were hamstrung by being tied to an extremely low percentage of wagering revenue - around 12%. Given the sport is doing around 20% of turnover, it was missing out on a remarkable amount of funding that instead was being allocated to Harness Racing in particular, a sport that is suffering relevance problems in this day and age. The Dogs just couldn’t take a trick.
Is Greyhound racing suffering from the same sort of perception issues? We will never know, as the sport has gone to the dogs. The big question to be asked – is there going to be a domino effect? Will other states follow suit as has happened in the US, where state after state bans greyhound racing? It is hard to argue with the findings in the ‘Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Industry in NSW’. 4000 dogs a year considered ‘wastage’. It is a term that doesn’t sit well with the Premier, whom preferred to call it ‘unnecessary slaughtering’. He was also completely taken aback by testimony from a guilty trainer whom said ’10-20% of trainers engaged in live baiting’. This is the interesting one – do you trust the testimony of such a person or is it tainted by someone whom is trying to make out what they did was ‘run of the mill’?
Ultimately it boiled down to whether the Government believed the benefits of the industry outweighed the shortcomings. Based on the Report by Michael McHugh QC, it does not.
So we bid farewell to the dishlickers, those lean mutts that bound out of the boxes chasing the mechanical lure all so we can enjoy a wager and a bit of fun. Whilst they can’t articulate it, the possums and rabbits of the world are rejoicing. No one enjoyed seeing Australian marsupials strapped to the lure, so some pot-bellied greys trainer could try to get their dog to go faster by tearing apart the poor animal.
In the end you pay the price. The entire industry in NSW has paid a heavy price and it certainly isn’t over – expect repercussions to resonate across the country. Whilst Baird might take a hit at the ballot box by disgruntled Greyhound fans, he will also receive the accolades of a whole stream of people whom were appalled by what happened. I am not sure if anyone would ever call Greyhound Racing a ‘great’ industry, but it was an industry nonetheless. A lot of people think its relevance was borne of another era. Maybe some truth in that. The Australian Wagering landscape will change forever in little over a years’ time as the greyhounds chase the lure in NSW that one last time.