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Good Idea...thoughts...

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OPINION: Race clubs must move with the times

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Ben Dorries - 01 May 2017

Two weeks ago, the wife of a long-time Brisbane trainer left the races in tears after being told she must pay admission.

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Times have changed and it's time race clubs change too. Photo: Qld.gov

The issue got plenty of traction on social media and one of the tweets really got me thinking.

Taking out the expletives, one of the twitterati asked why race clubs were even charging entry in this day and age.

It's a valid point.

They don't charge punters to get into pubs, clubs or casinos where you can watch the races in much more style and comfort.

And as racegoers desert racetracks in record numbers in some parts of Australia, there surely doesn't need to be another disincentive to turn up?

For years in my home state of Queensland, they haven't charged an entry fee to the midweek races.

Surely it is only a matter of time before forward-thinking clubs scrap the ticket price for Saturday races, apart from maybe Group I and big carnival days.

We are not all leviathan punters with limitless cash to toss around like confetti. And the big punters don't go to the races anyway these days.

The new-generation audience that racing must attract – which starts with late teenagers and early 20somethings – don't have many zeroes at the end of their bank account balances.

By the time they pay for entry to the races, fork out for a racebook, down a schooner or two and munch on a cold pie there's no change from $50.

That's before they've even had a bet.

My Racenet colleague Paul Joice, a racing man all his life, also reckons race clubs should let punters in for next to nix.

He suggests maybe only a few dollars, with money raised going to the National Jockeys Trust.

The extra money in the pockets of punters from not having to pay entry would soon be spent on more beers and food and other things at the races anyway.

It's a good idea.

It also gets around the problem of those status-seeking race club staff or security officials who seem to get special satisfaction from making it hard as possible to get through the gates.

Just about everyone has a story, like the one from Brisbane trainers Peter and Will Hulbert last weekend, about officialdom gone mad at the race gates.

There's the story of the car-full of blokes who owned a horse racing at a rural track and when they got there the place would have had a maximum of 100 people on track.

But the senior citizen at the gate made them all pay $10 to walk through a gate which they could have walked around anyway if they had wanted to.

That band of owners haven't raced a horse there since, preferring to take their nag to another nearby racetrack where owners and their guests are looked after.

In many cases, the cost of employing gate staff to enforce entry fees actually costs more than the money the race clubs make out of the tickets.

Australia likes to think of itself as the Lucky Country, and it is in many ways. But there is also a Nanny State phenomenon, and this often rears its head at the races.

In this 21st century of ever-increasing competition among sporting codes, there are very few races days that sell themselves. 

There's the Melbourne Cup, the Golden Slipper, Cox Plate and a few others. No-one is going to quibble about having to reach into their back pocket to pay entry fee on marquee days like these.

But for the rest of the year, throw open the gates and let 'em in for free.

While I am on my high horse, let's get rid of some of the old-style and outdated dress regulations in Members Areas. In fact, maybe we could get rid of Members Areas altogether?

It's entirely ridiculous that ladies can get into the Members wearing next to nothing while the blokes aren't allowed in unless they are wearing jackets and ties.

Dress regulations in the Members must move with the times and embrace the new generation. What 19-year-old do you know who gets around on weekends in a suit and tie? 

If you wanted, you could go and buy a jacket and tie at your local St Vinnie's shop for probably $50 and be let into the Members. Yet the swank youngster wearing $200 designer jeans and a $300 shirt won't get let in.

Dress rules aren't the only things that must be modernised in the Members.

One of the reasons sports bars/pubs/clubs have been so successful in luring punters is they have a huge bank of TVs showing live sport.

But good luck if you want to watch your favourite footy team at most race tracks.

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One thing frustrating(bloody frustrating!) to us at Reefton is this Summer Festival of Racing.  To go into the promotion you have to charge to get in(which we refuse to do). 

So everyone else around the Christmas circuit gallops and trots gets radio, newspaper and TAB poster advertising and our meeting is not mentioned.  Bloody pain in the a#*e!

We pay the same levies and fees as everyone else but because we will not fleece the poor bloke bringing the wife and kids to the races once a year....

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30 minutes ago, TOM(the other Molloy) said:

One thing frustrating(bloody frustrating!) to us at Reefton is this Summer Festival of Racing.  To go into the promotion you have to charge to get in(which we refuse to do). 

So everyone else around the Christmas circuit gallops and trots gets radio, newspaper and TAB poster advertising and our meeting is not mentioned.  Bloody pain in the a#*e!

We pay the same levies and fees as everyone else but because we will not fleece the poor bloke bringing the wife and kids to the races once a year....

You are totally correct Tom. I think it's a disgrace that people are charged $10-$15 to get in to watch what are often rubbish fields with poor facilities. I was going to get about ten people, all non racegoers, along to an average meeting this year and then thought no way am I going to ask them to pay $100 to watch this rubbish. I know non racegoers don't really know the fields are rubbish, but it is the principle of the thing. The emphasis should be on getting once a year punters along to these meeting and impressing them with good food wine and entertainment in the hope they will come back again. 

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20 minutes ago, We're Doomed said:

You are totally correct Tom. I think it's a disgrace that people are charged $10-$15 to get in to watch what are often rubbish fields with poor facilities. I was going to get about ten people, all non racegoers, along to an average meeting this year and then thought no way am I going to ask them to pay $100 to watch this rubbish. I know non racegoers don't really know the fields are rubbish, but it is the principle of the thing. The emphasis should be on getting once a year punters along to these meeting and impressing them with good food wine and entertainment in the hope they will come back again. 

Ironically We're Doomed the racing fare we generally produce, because our track is - as a rule - the best surface of the circuit, is superior to anything the other clubs do.   I am not saying it is outstanding but it is, in general, better than the others.  Yet because they are prepared to charge admission they get a heap of advertising.

Having said that the Hokitika entertainment in January would have been well worth the price of admission.   Not from a betting perspective but simply for the 'what the hell is going to happen next?' point of view.

 

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You probably treat the owners and trainers better too Tom. Too many Clubs are darnright rude in their treatment of the industry people. I've been bloody disgusted in so many behaviours towards me as an owner, including being told

"I MUST collect my owners tickets at the outside gate. NOT from the raceday office", from the little stand without a shelter above it at the back of the course!!! Sorry you might get wet while you wait in line on raceday in the rain.

I will need to be in the owners room, the one without food or drink!

 And as for the intrusive Gestapo (liquor licensing personnel) counting the number of drinks you've consumed. !

And what about the white-coated lads who scream "you can't park there. Your parking down the back." Starts the day on a really shitty note.

It's bad enough having to endure Health and Safety crap which prohibits you seeing your horse and trainer before the race.

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7 hours ago, TOM(the other Molloy) said:

One thing frustrating(bloody frustrating!) to us at Reefton is this Summer Festival of Racing.  To go into the promotion you have to charge to get in(which we refuse to do). 

So everyone else around the Christmas circuit gallops and trots gets radio, newspaper and TAB poster advertising and our meeting is not mentioned.  Bloody pain in the a#*e!

We pay the same levies and fees as everyone else but because we will not fleece the poor bloke bringing the wife and kids to the races once a year....

Just wondering do you think all it would make that much difference if you were in the go racing promotion, i reckon the free entry, a bigger draw card in my opinion, but see your point, when your paying the same levies.

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Once again the finger is being pointed at the racing clubs when its really a problem created by the industry body. 

The funding policy (in NZ) is an antiquated,inequitable ill thought out document that does nothing to assist racing clubs in creating a sustainable financial environment for themselves. Not to mention giving racing clubs incentives for creating a better race day experience for racegoers.

For some reason because people  gambling money on course  seem to think they it should be free entry, yet they'll pay to go to other events where they can't gamble or have the thrill of winning or losing their $$'s - go figure. Perhaps its because they think the club gets the $$ they lose , when in reality they get very little if any of it.

I don't have a problem with an entry fee and I can't understand why anyone would for a full days entertainment , often including Children entertainment,oncourse entertainment and  great racing (sometimes competitive fields are enough for great racing without the superstars).

It's interesting how some patrons will complain about a $10 entry fee but won't say a word about paying $9 for a beer or $5 for a hot dog. 

I have never heard of a racing clubs charging owners to get in.

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45 minutes ago, Huey said:

Once again the finger is being pointed at the racing clubs when its really a problem created by the industry body. 

The funding policy (in NZ) is an antiquated,inequitable ill thought out document that does nothing to assist racing clubs in creating a sustainable financial environment for themselves. Not to mention giving racing clubs incentives for creating a better race day experience for racegoers.

For some reason because people  gambling money on course  seem to think they it should be free entry, yet they'll pay to go to other events where they can't gamble or have the thrill of winning or losing their $$'s - go figure. Perhaps its because they think the club gets the $$ they lose , when in reality they get very little if any of it.

I don't have a problem with an entry fee and I can't understand why anyone would for a full days entertainment , often including Children entertainment,oncourse entertainment and  great racing (sometimes competitive fields are enough for great racing without the superstars).

It's interesting how some patrons will complain about a $10 entry fee but won't say a word about paying $9 for a beer or $5 for a hot dog. 

I have never heard of a racing clubs charging owners to get in.

I have no problem myself Huey paying to get into a decent racemeeting. But ironically the meetings they expect people to pay to get into over the summer promotion almost invariably produce rubbish fields, and I have a problem with this. Unlike a game of cricket or rugby the people going to these meetings aren't usually going to sit down and watch the event, it is more of a social outing. Interestingly the non racing people probably don't mind paying as they don't know how poor the fields are and they expect to pay to get into events anyhow as you say. It is probably more likely to be traditional racing people who are put off paying to watch rubbish when they know they can watch better fields with no entry fee at other times of the year. Still, it is nice to go to a racemeeeting that actually has some atmosphere occasionally. All very complicated really.

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Easily solvable with a loyalty swipe card system. Buy food and drink on track to a certain value and receive incentives from it, whether its free entry or free drinks etc.

Make it an NZ Racing idea and clubs opt in or out.

 

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I haven't been to the races for approx 10 years ,and prior to that i only ever went when strapping a horse so i never paid.

Like why i won't pay for trackside, there is no way i would pay to go to the races when the whole reason for going to the races is to bet.

It's a bit like paying an entrance fee to a casino,forget it.

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11 minutes ago, crustyngrizzly said:

I haven't been to the races for approx 10 years ,and prior to that i only ever went when strapping a horse so i never paid.

Like why i won't pay for trackside, there is no way i would pay to go to the races when the whole reason for going to the races is to bet.

It's a bit like paying an entrance fee to a casino,forget it.

Gee, over 1,700 posts from someone who hasn't been to the races for over ten years and who doesn't have trackside. I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinions.

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3 minutes ago, We're Doomed said:

Gee, over 1,700 posts from someone who hasn't been to the races for over ten years and who doesn't have trackside. I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Also i haven't played Rugby.water polo or basketball for even longer and i still have opinions on them.

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There is more than one way to skin a cat. You just dangle your previous owners/trainers tickets to the gate attendants... and move through with haste.. It shouldn't come to that...people often ask me why they charge to go on course ... it definitely puts people off !! 

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Its a curly one, and everyone has their own opinion, BUT, like crusty, many (and I know a few) are put off by gate charges.

Another alternative for clubs is to just give a small admit one, rip off ticket, for your $10 entry which entitles you to a beer / wine / hot-dog.

or something along those lines...the club will still make $8 entry (Beers are only $24 a doz and wine $10 a bottle retail).  

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Free entry to the casino on a quiet night, whenever its packed you pay $20 at the door. Same with clubs and pubs. Racing should be no different. If the demand exceeds the space available then you charge. If not, all welcome!

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On 5/2/2017 at 7:14 AM, SMD is rife said:

So there is zero cost to a club to be involved in ISF?

There is a fee for clubs who enter the ISF franchise which is a contribution towards the marketing costs for the national festival.

The gate charges are normally $10-15 and are a bargain as the club and The Races team put on free kids entertainment, live music, betting promotions with international travel as prizes, on-track games like tug of war, non-wagering competitions, food vendors, face painting, bouncy castles, petting zoos amongst a whole lot of other activities. The kicker is that under 18's enter free.

ISF is designed to welcome families and non-racing regulars to the sport one or 2 days a year. It is a summer entertainment option over the holiday period which fills racecourses with over 64,000 guests a year and ONE MILLION customers since it began 13 years ago. Name another initiative other than Christmas at the Races that seeks to bring kiwis to the races as successfully? I'll wait.

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5 hours ago, EyesOpen said:

There is a fee for clubs who enter the ISF franchise which is a contribution towards the marketing costs for the national festival.

The gate charges are normally $10-15 and are a bargain as the club and The Races team put on free kids entertainment, live music, betting promotions with international travel as prizes, on-track games like tug of war, non-wagering competitions, food vendors, face painting, bouncy castles, petting zoos amongst a whole lot of other activities. The kicker is that under 18's enter free.

ISF is designed to welcome families and non-racing regulars to the sport one or 2 days a year. It is a summer entertainment option over the holiday period which fills racecourses with over 64,000 guests a year and ONE MILLION customers since it began 13 years ago. Name another initiative other than Christmas at the Races that seeks to bring kiwis to the races as successfully? I'll wait.

Just the old sausage isn't it.

They complain about no entertainment and facilities etc for the family , kids and so on and then when the clubs do put it on they are expected to do it all for nothing.

The real kicker in all of this is that most patrons that go to the races don't have a clue about the funding of a race day from NZTR perspective and that of the club. The normal average punter who puts his $20 through the tote thinks its all going to the club so he shouldn't have to pay for entry,  Mr Punter doesn't realise the majority goes back to the winning punters in the race, the TAB,RIU etc and that the club gets next to nothing if they are lucky.

But the race club is expected to survive off the  But the race club is the forefront for the abuse on all of this because they are holding the race day.

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On 5/1/2017 at 9:24 PM, TOM(the other Molloy) said:

One thing frustrating(bloody frustrating!) to us at Reefton is this Summer Festival of Racing.  To go into the promotion you have to charge to get in(which we refuse to do). 

So everyone else around the Christmas circuit gallops and trots gets radio, newspaper and TAB poster advertising and our meeting is not mentioned.  Bloody pain in the a#*e!

We pay the same levies and fees as everyone else but because we will not fleece the poor bloke bringing the wife and kids to the races once a year....

Yes  same thing happens to Timaru’s December galloping meeting -  a few years ago the club took part, But didn’t want to take part again - so the Dec 28 meeting gets no promotion.

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1 minute ago, coro fan said:

Yes  same thing happens to Timaru’s December galloping meeting -  a few years ago the club took part, But didn’t want to take part again - so the Dec 28 meeting gets no promotion.

But thats why you choose to be part of it or not I'd have thought? I just don't buy into $10 to go to the races being termed fleecing people when you see the garbage that people pay money for these days. 

Why is paying $10 any different to being charged to a go to a club rugby or NPC game, you do know that you don't have to have a bet at the races just like you don't have to at the footy.

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It wasn’t anything to do with the gate charge - more to do with the conditions of the promo - no BYO - searching bags, giving the attendees survey’s to do, and then coming to the club and saying as a result of the survey if you want this promotion back next year you have to up-grade x- y- z. 

 

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14 hours ago, coro fan said:

Yes  same thing happens to Timaru’s December galloping meeting -  a few years ago the club took part, But didn’t want to take part again - so the Dec 28 meeting gets no promotion.

So just clarifying, the complaint is the club doesn't want to take part in the event which provides promotion, but expects to receive promotion anyway? Sounds like the Club needs to start marketing their own events in the local papers and radio stations. 

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