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By Graham Potter | Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

The stability of racing’s almost slow-motion movement through the current pandemic era is difficult to assess in real terms. It is a slow-motion … gently, gently … exercise because, while it is still up and running, the racing industry is nowhere near at full speed, particularly where it counts most … on the financial front.

Being a sport that depends on betting turnover the interrupted routine of punters, with racetracks, pubs, clubs and TABs closed to the public, does not bode well for the immediate future.

I have no idea how many of those patrons have made the switch to on-line gambling but I would suggest not all of them have and any drop in the regular patronage numbers brings two concerns for racing.

Firstly, there is the chance, particular if the current semi-lockdown lasts for an extended period of time, that some people who are now no longer regulars at the pubs and clubs will have found better things to do with their time, like spending more time with their families.

Some of those again will suddenly find they have more money to do it with … that is if they are not punting at this time and have been fortunate enough to retain their regular jobs.

For those who have not been so lucky with their income situation and who have been compromised financially, some severely, by the greater impact of Covid 19, the question is, even when everything is open again, will they have anywhere near the disposable funds available that they could previously draw on and will they even the desire to return to their old gambling ways?

Gamblers might essentially be creatures of habit, but new habits can replace old habits and this has got to be a very worrying grey area for racing moving forward in terms of the well-being and makeup its projected marketplace.

The chances are racing enthusiasts will have to accept a ‘new normal,’ as is being predicted for many forms of lifestyles and businesses, once the Covid 19 have been dealt with.

If that is the case, nobody knows right now how that ‘new normal’ will shape up.

And what about the participants?

Perhaps owners and trainers will be grateful to race for prizemoney levels they were crying about before.

Perhaps a new approach, akin to a release valve, will be installed in the system to offset the relentless pressure which has brought even the toughest of participants to their knees in the form of a ‘Black Dog’ menace.

A new approach meaning something like authorities backing off their ‘money grab’ philosophy and resisting the need to have a race jump every four minutes, or, maybe administrators and broadcasters could acknowledge that the physical and mental well-being of stakeholders is at least as important as the bottom line for their shareholders by saying they will no longer race deep into the night.

That’s not going to happen, right?

That’s too bad because if ever there was going to be a good time to re-evaluate racing’s overworked schedule (on people and tracks), the way it goes about its business and the way it treats its stakeholders … now is the time.

People’s lives have slowed down and most have become more in touch with their ‘humanity’ and many have embraced a ‘less is more’ philosophy which includes a clearer understanding of a better professional and personal life balance.

If we actually do end up going back to the hectic, 24/7 rush of the ‘old normal’, some might breathe a sigh of relief.

Others might see it as an opportunity lost!

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