Rob Waterhouse pours more than cold water on THAT speech by Jeff Kennett

Kennett,

It needs to be said, loud and clear, the Honourable Jeff Kennett’s speech at the Racing Victoria, on Monday 18th of August, http://www.racingnetwork.com.au/RacingNetworkTV/Programs/tabid/186/Default.aspx?videoid=1029522 was very disappointing.

It was particularly galling that it was made by the man who did more to harm Victorian racing than anyone in history.

Mr Kennett concedes his privatising the TAB in Victoria in 1994 was harmful to racing (in fact, it, of itself, wasn’t) but he neglects to explain his vast expansion of poker machines with it (granted under the TAB licence, to boost its TAB’s sale price) and his licensing of the casino (also in 1994) dealt body blows to Racing.

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To illustrate the significance of the poker machine expansion, VicTAB only paid $77.8M for the Victorian TAB itself but a whopping $600m, to the Government, for the new poker machine licences.

Mr Kennett’s downgraded Racing, with the new poker machines and new casino, from the dominant gambling provider to a minor player. Government statistics say racing was 37% of the gambling dollar then, now, thanks to Kennett, it is 11%.

But these Government stats are wrong and misleading. Casinos and poker machines record turnover as ‘money spent’, hapless racing records turnover as the gross amount bet. Racing’s ‘money spent’ might one tenth of the official turnover figure i.e. our ‘money-spent’ turnover is now a bit more than 1% of gambling dollar. Thank you, Mr. Kennett.

Racing’s share would be less without the Corporates.

Outrageously, he blames the Corporate Bookmakers, calling them: “A cancer.”

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Mr. Kennett’s words would have been great fun at a dinner party. His address, being a serious occasion and in interests of truth and accuracy, and to expose hypocrisy, a few things must be said:

· All small off-course punters are vastly better off, totally because of the competition of the Corporate Bookmakers. They get better odds. Punters do make up 98% of the racing community. Indeed, Mr Kennett told, in an interview with RSN’s Shane Anderson, he is an active client of a Corporate bookmaker, eschewing the TAB – he is not a fool.

· Contrary to Mr Kennett’s statement, the Corporates have not poached the TAB’s punters – the TAB’s turnover has gone up in real terms, no doubt because of added awareness, created by the Corporates’ vast advertising spend. A win for racing.

· The Corporates are paying to the racing industry exactly what the racing industry requires of them. They are good citizens. It must be stressed, their taxes are new money to racing’s bottom line.

· Sport bodies are so grateful to the Corporates – their fees are ‘manna from heaven’. Mr. Kennett knows this. As president of AFL club Hawthorn, he aggressively pursued Betfair to renew their valuable sponsorship.

· Banned UK trainer Al Zarooni is not a Sheikh.

· No Sheikhs have been punished.

· No Hunter Valley trainers are retiring because they hate coal mines.

Mr Kennett asserts that a Board in charge of racing should be small and made of non-racing people. That has been done elsewhere and it is a disaster. Racing needs racing people controlling it.

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The former Premier, in a Marie-Antoinette moment, suggests that trainers reduce their workload to ten months a year – shame if they lose owners!

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Mr Kennett, by implication, insulted Racing Victoria Stewards. He is incensed at Damien Oliver’s eight-month punishment and that the Stewards, themselves, recognised Oliver as Victoria’s best rider with the Scobie Beasley Award, the night before Kennett’s speech. He did win the premiership!

He ignores that there are worse crimes than betting on a horse, if he hadn’t confessed they couldn’t have charged him, he was totally contrite and that he ‘served his time’, ‘paid his debt to society’. And eight months is not insignificant.

No Christian forgiveness in Mr Kennett. No rehabilitation allowed.

Thank goodness his party and electorate were more forgiving of Kennett’s own well-documented sins and failings.

He said owners, who are slow paying their training bills promptly, should be suspended immediately as owners, by Racing Victoria, and their horses not allowed to race, punishing their partners in those horses. In my wife’s business, bad debts are a minute problem. Trainers already have a legal “lien” over an owner’s horse. What more do trainers need?

No more, please Jeff.

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