PUBTAB punters kept their wallets in their pockets while the horses were racing at Geelong on Tuesday, shying away from having a bet because of the media rights vision blackout.
The overwhelming consensus was if you can’t see them, don’t back them.
The publicans, too, were cautious. They said it was too early to tell if turnover was down on day one of Tabcorp’s decision to pull the plug on the Victorian racing feed, but they expected a noticeable impact during Wednesday’s higher-rating program at Ballarat.
Punters in the pubs felt they had been left in the dark.
They did not want to be reading an apology on Sky Channel screens where the Victorian racing would normally be shown — they wanted a deal to be done, differences to be resolved.
Show the horses on the Seven Network and Sky Channel, they said, and everyone’s a winner.
Jim Bowden lives in Myrtleford but had stopped in at the Mail Exchange Hotel in Melbourne’s Bourke St to catch a race or two.
He called the blackout a disgrace.
“This really should have been sorted out a long time ago,” the 57-year-old said. “I know for a fact people won’t bet if they can’t see them. I know I prefer to look at them.”
He put his money where his mouth was on Tuesday, saying he was punting at Kembla and Cessnock on footage he could see.
Bowden is also an owner. He said he had a horse with Darren Weir that was trialling at Burrumbeet on Tuesday and would have been annoyed had it been entered in a race and he was unable to see it run.
Tony Whitty, of Thomastown, is 69 and doesn’t have the internet. He can’t stream a racing feed.
He said he watched races at home on pay-TV or wandered down the pub each day with his “lady friend” to have a bet. “When I was younger, I listened to the racing on the wireless and I didn’t like it then. So I don’t want to bet on them now if I can’t see them,” he said.
At the Oxford Scholar Hotel on Swanston St, owner Malcolm Wulf was showing a racing feed on his iPad for patrons with an interest in racing at Geelong.
But he said the possibility of free-to-air racing on Seven was not a good result for his business. He did not want people staying at home watching horses, he wanted them in his pub.
There were options on Tuesday, of course, but it meant going for a walk.
Tabcorp had agreed to keep showing Victorian meetings at its 92 TAB agencies spread throughout the state. Punters could also stream Racing.com vision on their phones.
For Scott Palmer, 39, neither option was convenient.
The rugby league fan had flown in from Newcastle for Wednesday night’s Origin clash at the MCG and was killing time with friends in Clocks at Flinders Street Station.
He had been filling out TAB tickets during the afternoon, but none of them where for Victorian racing. “If I can’t see them, and I even hate listening to races on the radio, I won’t be having a bet,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Sky Racing blackout is set to continue in homes and in pubs.
Tabcorp is in no mind to start showing vision of Victorian racing while the Victoria Racing Club is still negotiating to sign off on a deal to hand vision rights to the Seven Network.
Until then, for pub-TAB punters, all bets on Victorian racing are off and the costs are still to be counted.