‘It would be a financial hit to racing’: Has the Melbourne Cup lost its media value?

The race that stops a nation is set to go ahead this afternoon, but debates have again ignited regarding the race’s value in a number of areas, including to the media.

$8 million is up for grabs in the Melbourne Cup, $4.4 of which goes to the 2023 winner, with the jockey raking in five percent ($220,000). While the prize is indeed lucrative, the crowds are not what they used to be. In 2022, a record low of 73,816 turned up to Flemington for the races, though it should be noted that Melbourne was experiencing a flood at the time.

In the same year, Channel Ten’s coverage garnered 1.35 million viewers compared to the over three million who tuned in in 2015.

Appearing on a new episode of the Fear & Greed podcast, Thoroughbred Breeders Association CEO, Tom Reilly, addressed calls for advertising allowed in gaming to be reduced, noting a recent report earlier this year that put forward 31 recommendations for online gambling reforms.

While he insisted the association largely supports most of the recommendations, Reilly said one area that could hurt the industry is a call for inducements, or as he described it, “what bookmakers might call generosity”.

“So, if you’ve got a Sportsbet or a Ladbrokes account and you’re having a bet in the Melbourne Cup today, there’s a chance that whichever bookmaker you are with might have an offer where if your horse runs second, you might get a bonus bet back,” he explained.

“So, the report called for all of those generosities to be cancelled. Now, one immediate issue for the racing industry is that all of those, let’s say if you looked at free bets or bonus bets, all of those bets get taxed by the racing industry. So, a levy is paid to the racing industry on those, and they also get taxed by state governments. And with all state governments across the country, a proportion of that tax take from racing, goes back to the industry.

“So, if those were removed, it would be a financial hit to racing.”

As noted in a recent Weekend Mumbo, 2023 will be the final year that Ten broadcasts the Melbourne Cup following a five-year deal and a cool $100 million for the rights.

“Throughout the course of the current negotiations, it became clear that the nature of the agreement between Tabcorp and the VRC would require a move towards a core racing and wagering-focused broadcast product,” a Ten spokesperson said in June.

“Given this likely change in focus combined with commercial constraints of the future agreement, Network 10 considered the preferences of its viewers and advertisers, and politely declined to move forward with the process.”

More pressure will come on TV networks particularly just days after SBS announced an opt out option for gambling ads on its SBS On Demand platform, a move widely praised by industry stakeholders.

Media value aside, the welfare of the horses has been a hot topic for some years now, which again, will only make networks cautious. However, Reilly claimed this is an area the racing industry is committed to improving.

“Across the country, each racing authority is putting aside a percentage of all the money that comes into the industry for welfare. And this amounts to tens and tens of millions of dollars across the country each year,” Reilly said.

“And there’s some great programs. Just the other day, Racing Queensland announced a safety net. So, any thoroughbred that essentially gets into trouble in retirement, they will come on and take over responsibility for that horse, and there’s been some great work done.

“And I think that ideas like that, the safety net, I think will become national ideas very soon, and that will really help the industry and give confidence to everyone that we’re not just committed to looking after our horses while they’re in the industry, while they’re racing, but afterwards too.”

With some rain and possible thunderstorms expected to hit Melbourne today, it is not currently known just how many people will flock to the track, though it is not expected to exceed 100,000. That won’t stop organisers from pulling out all the stops to attract punters.

Hollywood heavyweight Matt Damon was spotted at the famous Birdcage for Derby Day this past weekend, while Melanie C of Spice Girls fame will headline the Melbourne Cup’s newest offering, Palooza, with a DJ set. Other acts to perform today include Delta Goodrem and Natalie Imbruglia, who will perform the national anthem.

Listen to the full Fear & Greed episode here.


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