TAB makes key change to final field bets
By Michael Guerin
The TAB has stunned punters by announcing an unprecedented no deductions rule on final field bets for the majority of the spring.
In what may be a world first New Zealand’s only betting agency will guarantee the fixed odds dividend on any final field bet placed on a horse or dog race, either in New Zealand or overseas, at the price the bet is placed at regardless of subsequent scratchings.
That is a radical departure from the industry-standard practice of reducing the return for final field bets based on any scratchings after that bet was placed.
Put very simply, if a punter backs a horse at $5 in a final field market and then after the bet was placed the $2 favourite for that race is scratched, the $5 return would usually be reduced to $3, or a 40 per cent reduction.
That may be a bit too complicated for most punters but this isn’t: place a bet with the TAB between now and when the promotion ends after NZ Cup week in November and whatever fixed odds price you get, you are guaranteed.
That applies to win and place bets, with all punters supposedly allowed to win up to $2000 on any domestic win bet under a new policy implemented by the TAB several months ago.
The benefits of the promotion are obvious, with punters getting the price they originally choose rather than backing a winner only to have their dividend reduced because of scratchings.
It will have some punters dreaming, quite rightly, of the day they back a $10 chance only for the $1.50 chance to be scratched later and they end up collecting $10 for a horse who pays $3 or even $2 at race start time.
That sounds incredibly risky for the TAB but the shock promotion coupled with their minimum win bet rules allowing punters to bet to win at least $2000 are aggressive moves to arrest the loss of market share they have suffered from Kiwi punters using Australian corporate bookmakers.
The obvious question is whether the promotion will see bookies open markets with more short prices (called adding more percentage to the market) to mitigate the potential risks?
TAB insiders suggested that will not be the case but it will be monitored very closely by astute punters and rival bookmakers over the spring as they will look to pick holes in the promotion.
Yet there are key reasons the promotion can and will work.
Firstly, it is for a limited time so can be used as a loss leader to reclaim market share, secondly most punters who win tend to re-invest so those lucky enough to grab $10 fixed about a $2 chance will probably pour most of it back into the next race anyway.
And New Zealand has very few professional or highly-skilled punters who would be able to take advantage of any pre-scratching information, even if they were smart or lucky enough to get it before the bookies.
So while the promotion is a revelation and some punters will get early Christmas presents through backing winners in races where key rivals are scratched.
But, and there is always a but, they still have to back the winner.