TAB to continue with no deductions policy

By Michael Guerin

The TAB’s no deductions rule for fixed odds betting will stay in place for summer racing and could become permanent.

The world-leading policy means punters are guaranteed the final field win or place price for any bet placed on either New Zealand or overseas racing, regardless of how many scratchings there are in that race after the bet is placed.

That differs enormously from the usual TAB policy, which is also standard practice for bookmakers worldwide, that final field dividends reduce for each scratching, with the amount the dividend is reduced decided by the scratched runner’s price.

That can be enormously frustrating for punters who think they have found a fair price only for their horse to win but their dividend to be halved or worse because of scratchings.

Faced with enormous competition from overseas bookmakers the NZ TAB started their no-deductions promotion in August initially to run for spring and end at the completion of New Zealand Cup week mid-November but it was extended and will be again, this time until the end of March.

When it was first introduced the no-deductions promotion was welcomed by Kiwi punters lucky enough to cash in on guaranteed and sometimes enormously inflated dividends but envious overseas punters questioned how it could possibly work.

Concerns were raised over integrity issues, hugely increased market percentages (horses all paying less) and the new policy costing the industry millions of dollars but none of those have become reality.

One reason no deductions works in New Zealand is we have very few professional punters who would try and either rort the system or back horses at one price and then lay them (allow another punter to back them) on an overseas betting exchange like Betfair.

Theoretically if a punter was well enough informed about impending scratchings they could do that and make a profit but the reality is few Kiwi punters would even know where to start that process and the mainly Australian-based semi professional punters who would can’t bet with the New Zealand TAB and would have limited intel at best on our racing.

“We know some people had initial concerns but we have seen none of those come to fruition and the promotion has worked pretty much as we thought it would,” says TAB head of betting Nick Conway.

“It is not greatly different from sport, where there are no deductions.

“This year we saw Novak Djokovic disqualified from the Australian Tennis Open as the $2 favourite and we just took him out of the market and anybody who had backed another player to win kept their original price.

“Under that same principal, now for our racing customers, the price is the price.”

The promotion, which Conway and others in the TAB hope will become permanent, gives them a huge point of difference in their war to retain New Zealand punters betting here and Conway says the way bookies set markets hasn’t had to change greatly because their winning margins haven’t been too bad hit.

“The percentages we open markets at are affected by an array of things from field size to how hot the favourite is and if we have a double acceptor in a race and a reasonable expectation it might be scratched, we will factor that in.

“But even with no deductions going we roughly try to open markets at 130 per cent and close around 120 per cent or less.

“And we are quite open about what helps us and that is the punters still have to back the winner.”

For all the TAB’s shortcomings, the combination of no deductions and the Punter’s Promise guaranteeing local punters to be allowed to win at least $2000 on a NZ horse or dog race has been by far their most aggressive and important play to keep New Zealand punters betting here.

And it takes away one punter’s pet hates: finally backing a winner only for your return to reduce after it has won.

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