Windsor cuts off the grandstand
Mike Deasy on Windsor’s lamentable decision to cast their grandstand adrift, mid-tier bookies feeling the squeeze, mixed fortunes in getting a Guinness, and more
Older readers of these scribblings will probably remember the Silver Ring enclosure, traditionally the cheapest of three racecourse enclosures alongside Tattersalls (now the usually called the Grandstand enclosure) and the Members (now the Premier enclosure).
Well, Windsor racecourse (pictured) is bringing back the Silver Ring albeit with a new name, the Trackside Enclosure. Trouble is, they are doing away with the Grandstand enclosure.
This means that the Berkshire track, part of the Arena Racing Compny, will have two enclosures. The Trackside and what’s to be known as the Jubilee Enclosure.
Racegoers paying £18 for admission to the Trackside Enclosure will not have access to the parade ring or the winner’s enclosure. If they go to Windsor and want to see the horses parade or return to the winners enclosure, they’ll have to pay £38 or £40.
Windsor proudly says: “Our new Trackside Enclosure allows access to the grandstand building, Sprint Bar and other amenities.” Let’s hope the other amenities include the toilets.
But it’s a lamentable decision that separates those racegoers, who find premium admission costs beyond their means, from getting close to what the sport is all about – the horses.
Indeed, the looming cost of living crisis will mean there will be more people who will scrape together the money for a family day out at the races.
They’ll find Windsor has blocked their access to see beautiful thoroughbreds walking majestically around the parade ring and coming home to the plaudits after success in their race.
They’ll be denied the chance of seeing a horse and jockey they might have backed coming home in triumph to the winner’s berth.
There’s the mantra that “racing is for everyone”. Windsor’s decision is at odds with that egalitarian approach.
Worth the price
We all know the price of the Racing Post will increase ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, and the rise this year could make a lot of people hot under the collar. But a look at inflation, in particular the cost of newsprint, will force the Post’s hand. That and the shrinking market for print publications.
They’ll be those who say “I’ve stopped buying the rag.” Fine, they’ll be unaffected. Others will say that they can buy a daily paper for less than a pound. A comment without any validity as the business model for a national daily, which can cost £2.50, is entirely different to that of the Post.
Other’s will say the Post needs competition. That’s a path littered with failures.
The Post is not perfect but it does innovate, an excellent example of which is the hiring of Paul Hayward to write for the paper during the Cheltenham Festival.
Hayward cut his teeth on the Post in its early days before becoming racing correspondent at The Independent. He then went on to be a multi award-winning sports journalist, most recently as chief sports writer on the Telegraph, a position he left to concentrate on writing books.
His recruitment, along with Chris Cooke who’d left the Guardian and Post stalwart Lee Mottershead adds to the Post’s Cheltenham talent pool. I think that’s well worth the price if you like racing.
Future looking grim for mid-tier bookies
With the company still due to sponsor races in the coming weeks, the decision to shut down Mansion Bet at the end of March seems to have been made with a degree of haste. It follows the departure from Britain of Novibet.
They were both small to middle-sized online operators who seemingly found the going tough up against such behemoths as Entain (Coral and Ladbrokes) and Flutter (Betfair, Paddy Power and Sky Bet) amongst others.
It would be invidious and, indeed, risky under defamation laws, to name others who could follow but chances are there will be more who’ll pull the plug.
It’s highly likely that mid-tier operators are taking a close look at the bottom line, with their minds concentrated by gambling laws becoming stricter.
Anyone who comes to the conclusion that it’s time to call it a day wont be alone.
Worth the wait
A couple of weeks or so ago I went to Warwick races. If you haven’t been, it’s well worth a visit. One thing I can heartily recommend in the service in the track’s bars. Five were road-tested and all were excellent. Good Guinness in each, and every pint poured with care.
In contrast, these scribblings are not so enamoured with the service these days at Newbury, who have joined up with Compass, replacing their in-house team. Coincidentally, I received an online survey last week from the Berkshire track asking to rate its bar service.
I don’t there they can be in much doubt about what I thought.
But nothing has been so silly as a customer recently ordering a Guinness (not me) at Sandown. The pint was fine but he was told he couldn’t have it. The reason? It hadn’t been poured in a Guinness glass.
Getting their houses in order
Last week, two online gaming operators, BetVictor and 888 were hit with hefty fines by the Gambling Commission. Now, Sky Vegas, have to cough up £1.2m.
With the government’s extensive gambling review coming to an end, heralding new gambling laws with potentially worrying ramifications, it would be good if proper measures were in place to prevent gaming companies from making so many catastrophic ricks in their internal processes.
Sky Vegas sent emails to recovering gambling addicts offering free spins on their casino games. And they were posted during safe gambling week.
If the Gambling Commission can unearth such shortcomings, why aren’t there independent auditors brought in to review gaming operators’ internal compliance standards and spot failures before the authorities do. If they are undertaking such audits, they’re apparently missing a good few misdemeanours.
With the gaming review looming, and such failures eating into the hands of the anti-gambling lobby, who are supported by a number of news outlets, it’s time gaming operators got their houses in order. If they don’t, racing could be the sufferer.