Mumbai: Demonetisation puts shadow of fear over Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Updated: Nov 12, 2016, 10:45 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Demonetisation puts shadow of fear over Mahalaxmi Racecourse as the Mumbai season approaches; races cancelled, bookies disappear

February 2016 Derby. File pic
February 2016 Derby. File pic

With the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) in Mahalaxmi in the throes of a financial crisis, the last thing it needed was further trouble at the tote. Now, its nightmare has been realised with the scrapping of the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. With the Mumbai racing season starting on November 20, the RWITC had a committee meeting on November 10, where the scrapping was widely discussed with some suggesting that there could be debit/credit card machines installed at the tote machines in a first ever for the history of the sport. This though has not been finalised. Bookies everywhere have stopped operations and only betting at the tote is going on. The bookies are not going to operate for a month now, till they have enough cash flow. In total there are 35 bookmakers that operate in Mumbai. Each of them pays Rs 40,000 per day to the RWITC per stall. They fear that they will not make enough to cover these costs.

Going cashless?
RWITC chairman Vivek Jain said, “The Mumbai season will be badly hit in the short run. Punters bet mostly in cash, we have no credit card facility. The club can’t accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with immediate effect. The tote will accept notes of Rs 100 and below. We are examining how soon we can introduce credit/debit card betting.”

He added, “The policy has just been announced. It is surely very negative for the sport, mainly because of the way betting was done. However, it is early days yet and we must see how we can turn the tide, even if gradually.”

Races called off
Chennai races of November 9 were cancelled. The Kolkata races were held, but tote collections were a fraction of the usual because of lack of cash. Bengaluru races of November 10 have been called off. Racing followers in Mumbai are worried that if the club, already struggling with falling numbers, sees further losses, it might mean that land sharks and politicians eyeing the racecourse will once again start trying to take over SoBo’s emerald. A regular stated, “The situation is extremely dire. Mumbai makes Rs 6 lakh a day loss during racing season. If the situation is not addressed we will see more losses. Clearly, we are staring at the mouth of the abyss.”

Nov 20
Start of the Mumbai racing season

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