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Racing Victoria will pitch for Derby Day and Champions Day to become 10-race cards from 2024 in an attempt to stop a decline in Cup week wagering.
The governing body will also push for the Archer Stakes – the final golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup – to be moved from Derby Day, allowing the Melbourne Cup barrier draw to be held on the Friday before Cup week, therefore giving punters more time to bet on the all-in market.
Melbourne Cup week wagering went down 15 per cent on last year’s returns.Credit: Getty Images
Turnover on last week’s Melbourne Cup Carnival dropped 15 per cent year-on-year, falling to $665 million, albeit a 5 per cent increase on the pre-COVID 2019 levels. The fact a number of favourites lost during Cup week meant bookmakers were more profitable, in turn, cushioning the blow on Racing Victoria’s revenue for the week.
That drop was greater than the overall 10 per cent year-on-year decline in wagering turnover over all 14 spring racing carnival feature meetings, with the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate carnivals also down 10 per cent on last year.
The figures point to a continued wagering correction, consistent with a drop in discretionary consumer spending, which saw Racing Victoria’s wagering revenue decline by $32.4 million last financial year. Their annual report was released on Wednesday, with the sport’s bottom-line recording a $200,000 surplus – effectively a break-even.
Substantial prizemoney increases added to costs last financial year, but the decline in wagering revenue had the biggest impact on Racing Victoria’s profit and loss sheet. A significant proportion of that decline has come from the sport’s joint venture with the TAB, a deal which will end in August next year and replaced with a more secure funding model, as the TAB continues to lose market share to its corporate competitors.
Chief executive Andrew Jones said Racing Victoria would need to continue to dip into its piggy bank to soften the financial blow.
“By building our balance sheet over the past decade we are able to cushion the downturn in FY24,” Jones said.
“We will report an underlying operating deficit accordingly.
“Initiatives to return to growth are important and will continue to be a focus. We must work together as an industry to ensure a bright and prosperous future.”
Racing Victoria chief executive Andrew Jones.Credit: Getty Images
One of those initiatives will be to add 10th races to the two Saturdays in Cup week to maximise the most popular punting day of the week.
Racing Victoria has been running with 10-race Saturday cards since the start of August, but the Victoria Racing Club maintained nine-race cards for the bookends of its Cup week.
Another initiative has been the extension of the spring racing carnival, which will see the Thousand Guineas and Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes provide the sport with another feature race day this Saturday.
Fields for those two group 1s were released on Wednesday, with Racing Victoria officials rapt with the acceptances and field sizes for both races.
One change proposed for Cup week will be the moving of the listed Desirable Stakes from Cup Day to Derby Day. A race for three-year-old fillies over 1400 metres, it would increase the gap to the Thousand Guineas from 11 days to 14, and would see Derby Day retain a full card of black type racing.
The Archer Stakes, as well as the Coongy Stakes on the Wednesday before the Caulfield Cup, will also provide discussion points for Racing Victoria and the clubs, as trainers become less inclined to try and win their way into the Cups off the short back up.
In response, the VRC said: “The spring racing carnival will be reviewed in due course in collaboration with Racing Victoria.”
Meanwhile, Racing Victoria has recently made a submission to the federal Department of Communications reaffirming its desire for racing content platforms to be exempt from gambling advertisement bans.
Racing officials were optimistic the government’s inquiry into gambling advertising will not have a significant impact on the sport’s future earnings, with expectations an announcement would be made before Christmas.
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