Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft, has been so impressed by a book written by William Rosen (The Most Powerful Idea in the World) that he has used it to guide his foundation’s multi-billion dollar investments into global health, education and so on. The key, he found, was good measurement, which allows inventors to see if their incremental design changes led to improvements. He quotes “without feedback from precise measurement ... invention is doomed to be rare and erratic. With it, invention becomes commonplace”.
Probably more so than any other code, greyhound racing is dedicated to measuring things. Yet most of its objectives concern times and money, and perhaps the worth of breeding lines. Nothing is devoted to checking if the means of generating the product are well measured, or measured at all – that is, how does the track work? Does the track allow dogs the best possible chance to gain a trouble free run? If not, why not?
To underline that gap, we need only to read what GRNSW considers are the major issues affecting an increase in future funding. From the CEO’s latest blog, the list includes the state’s horrible inter-code funding formula, the growth of corporate bookmakers, the impact of mobile technology and non-cash transactions, and some (unstated) refocus of marketing activities. Not a word about the product as such.
The rumours are strong that some club or track rationalisation is in the offing but not a word about the customers who patronise those tracks. Yet a different track mix will make no difference to customers’ attitudes to the remaining tracks. Only an improved product would do that and, even then, the worth of that product would have to be passed on to potential customers. (More sectional times would be a good start)
The first step in that process would be the recognition that the product can be improved. To date, there is not the slightest indication that any change is needed. In fact, the reverse is often the case. For example, track works at Maitland in 2010 involved cutting away the rail on the turn because “that had proved successful elsewhere”. But, no, it didn’t do that at all. Cutaway rails served only to increase track bias at places like Launceston and Cannington, or promote unpredictable interference, as occurs at Bulli. That is also what happened at Maitland (although who would know as industry statistics for winning boxes do not differentiate between the “before” and “after”. My own manually collated figures tell the real story).
Then disruptive bend starts are in place all over the country, including at new or re-built tracks where the opportunities to advance were open – Dapto, Richmond, Sale, Horsham, Warrnambool and the like. Is no-one measuring their impact? It seems not.
Where it comes out in the wash is that serious punters do make measurements. They want to see if their investments will end up returning a profit, or at least a good chance of a profit. Yet if unpredictable interference wipes 10% or so off the top there is no chance of that happening. Over the years I have seen many cashed up punters pay big money to obtain detailed form data, only to find that their analyses showed that good returns will never be available.
This, incidentally, also suggests why GRNSW (and perhaps others) are happy with their current deal with corporate bookmakers – based, as they are, on a percentage of the bookies’ profits. For that method to be preferred over a percentage of turnover there can be only one conclusion – the investors are doing very badly and bookies are making excessive profits. In contrast, all the major players are doing much better by using the turnover option, thanks – just ask Racing NSW.
Incidentally, GRNSW claim that corporate bookies commission from racefield fees amounts to about 15% of the total. That is well below the national aggregate figure for all racing of 20% or more. Apparently, greyhound racing does not attract interest from some punters.
So, there are a couple of factors which tell the real story. On the other hand, an improvement in the integrity of the product, and a consequent rise in investors’ confidence, would create a huge potential for advancement.
That gain would be equalled only by the development of a national betting pool, something which also failed to get a mention in the GRNSW plans.
Bill Gates could buy and sell Australian greyhounds but he wouldn’t do it unless he could first measure it properly.