RWITC slashes stakes by 50%

Updated: Nov 14, 2016, 10:08 IST | Prakash Gosavi

As an emergency measure, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) decided to slash the stakes money by 50% for the first four racing days of the forthcoming Mahalaxmi season which is scheduled to begin on Sunday

As an emergency measure, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) decided to slash the stakes money by 50% for the first four racing days of the forthcoming Mahalaxmi season which is scheduled to begin on Sunday (Nov 20). Vivek Jain, chairman of the race club, confirmed the development to mid-day.

Catch-22 situation
What was actually scheduled as a routine meeting of the managing committee last week turned into a serious affair in view of the prime minister's Tuesday evening announcement of demonetization and scrapping of the 500 & 1,000-rupee bills. The government move has resulted in extreme cash crunch, and has delivered a death blow to the horse racing industry which is solely and wholly dependent on hard cash that comes in as betting money through their tote system and official bookmakers. As reaction to the sudden govt move, the Chennai and Bangalore turf clubs had cancelled their races last week.

"The cost of conducting races is huge," Jain told mid-day, "and with a compromised cash position, we are looking at a crippling loss if we operate. But still we have decided to go ahead with racing because all the preparatory races for the forthcoming Classics are scheduled for the first two weeks, and it would be unfair to disturb the horses' training schedule." However, to soften the blow for the finances of the club, which is already staring at an unprecedented loss situation in its balance sheet, the committee headed by Jain decided to slash the stakes money by 50 percent for the first four racing days of the winter program.

Decision reasonable
Jain expressed hope that professionals and horse owners will co-operate with the club. "With no hope of decent revenue either from the tote, fixed odds betting and the mobile phone badge charges, there could be direct loss of Rs 30-35 lakh per day," Jain explained, "even the bookmakers have gone off for almost a month for the same reason, so I feel this decision to slash the stakes is reasonable." Jain also added that it is a temporary measure, and will be reviewed after the first four racing days.

On asked if the field size may be reduced due to the reduced stakes and races may be rendered unattractive, Jain begged to differ. "Either the horse stays in the stables, or it runs and tries to win whatever it can," he said, adding it was not a happy decision for them either. "We had to decide between canceling the races (like Chennai and Bangalore) or reducing the stakes, I think all will agree we have chosen the lesser of the two evils."

Exploring options
Jain went on to explain it is difficult to visualize a long term solution to this problem right now. "We are exploring other options like credit or debit cards, but there are hurdles. The banks are not going to make it possible overnight, it will be a long process," he said, "at this moment we also don't know how the bettor will react to recording his betting transactions." Jain also pointed out that though there is still a lot of grey area, he was told racing does not even figure in the list for the proposed GST considerations and slabs. "That's surprising," he added, "racing is an important industry employing thousands, and we will need to change the government's perception."

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