In most horse racing centres in the world, computerisation of totes and a single betting system, without the participation of bookmakers, is a phenomenon recognized by the horse racing fraternity. In many countries, the totes are connected nationwide and you can buy the betting tickets from even the remotest place. This has led to organised betting, transparent taxation systems and general improvement of the sport. Monies earned by the Turf Clubs are ploughed back into the game and better facilities are created for the owners, licensed professionals and the racing public. It is like watching a spectacle, when one has a chance to witness night racing at Singapore. The tote betting system also helps in partially safeguarding the sport from unwanted elements. It is a well-known fact that a parallel illegal bookmaker syndicate operates in most countries. They are known as the "Betting Mafia". While visiting a few racing centres in far eastern countries, I saw the police taking away small-time illegal bookmakers from amongst the crowd. But, by and large, the system has led to better collections and better profits for the institutions.
The Managing Committee holding the reins at the Bangalore Turf Club in the late 1980s had the vision and the foresight to realize that this was one system which needed to be implemented. The Club did not have the cash reserves to implement such a huge project. The software had to be developed and costly hardware had to be installed. The committee was in two minds about the virtues of such an investment. However, in a landmark decision taken at that time, the Club decided to go ahead and placed the order. The banks associated with the BTC raised their hands and the funding was put in place. After lengthy test runs and proper trials, the tote was computerised and became operational on January 10, 1991.
There were many people at that time, who doubted the success of this project. A few amongst them had reservations about the amount of money that was being spent. More importantly, there was a resistance to change. It took time for the racing public to realise that the returns were as good, if not better, than those offered by the bookmakers. Punters, who habitually backed outsiders, were the first to fall in line. They ultimately realized that the investments and dividends were free of betting tax. It took five years for the collections to touch the Rs 100-crore mark, which was achieved in the year 1996-97. There was much jubilation and backslapping because the tree was finally seen to be bearing fruit. All of a sudden, there were many who wanted to take credit for this achievement. The knowledgeable at the Club knew the people that needed to be complimented. The institution was then rejuvenated. Betting centres were opened progressively all over the city and thereafter in various parts of the state. The tote had become the backbone of the BTC.
The reason for writing this article is to tell our readers about what happened subsequently. The figure crossed Rs 500 crore in 2005-06 and Rs 700 crore in the subsequent year. It is learnt that the Club has clocked a turnover of Rs 924 crore when the accounting books were closed on March 31, 2008. It will not take an astrologer to tell us that the magical figure of Rs 1000 crore would be easily crossed this year.
It is time to salute the people who had the wisdom to take the club on the growth path. It is also time to think about the common punter who is the backbone of racing. It is he who brings in the money and funds the entire operation. Therefore, it is time for the Bangalore Turf Club to improve the amenities that it provides to the average racegoer.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
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