On-Course Bookies Threaten Strike Action – Bookmaker News

Irish on-course bookmakers threaten to keep their satchels closed

Bookmaker News

We are all accustomed to bookmakers crying foul but maybe the threatened strike action by Irish on-course bookies hasn’t been allocated the column inches it deserves.

Bookmakers eventually withdrew their threat of strike action at Punchestown’s fixture on Tuesday this week but there are deep divisions between the on-course fraternity, the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI). If no SP is returned on track, of course, there is a danger that all bets placed off-course will be null and void. That is not a prospect appealing to the major organisations, who conduct most of their business online and would face a backlash from punters.

The Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association (INPBA) has several grievances but chief among them is the charges on-course bookmakers have to pay to get into meetings. They generally have to pay five times the admission fee to get into any meeting. That is not economically viable in the long term at midweek meetings, where attendances are small and action in the betting ring often non-existent. Race planning, especially an increase in the number of fixtures, and the intervals between races (often 35 minutes rather than 30 minutes) have also been criticised and the INPBA are levelling accusations against the AIR and HRI that they are not moving with the times.

On-course bookmakers are the lifeblood of the betting industry with regard to horse racing. The sport can not function in its present form without them so it’s astonishing that the HRI hasn’t intervened and at least attempted to offer an olive branch.

Attendances continuing to decline

The bare facts are that attendances at midweek racing fixtures in Ireland over the last 10 years has fallen by 75 per cent. It’s unreasonable to expect bookmakers to pay the same fees to stand at meetings during the week as on a weekend. At the end of the day, there is only so much money to go around and punters are becoming more selective in their betting habits. Giving on-course bookmakers the option of paying up or leaving is hardly the actions of a responsible body but it’s not the first time that the HRI has come in for criticism recently.

A deal with Racing UK to stream Irish racing has often seen races ignored in favour of UK racing or hidden behind the red button. That will eventually see its profile lowered – not what a sport wants when it’s trying to retain the millions of Euros put in every year by certain individuals who could just as easily move their base to England.

With the HRI-owned Tote Ireland also struggling to adapt to modern betting habits, these are troubling times for horse racing in Ireland!