Nine out of ten bookmakers will return to the Warrnambool country racing carnival. The hallmark Victoria event will host up to 90 per cent of the bookmakers it used to welcome in pre-COVID-19 times.
The three-day carnival which will take place at the beginning of May will remind us all of how courses used to look in pre-pandemic times. And it’s fair to say that both bookmakers and punters are excited at the prospect of returning to some familiar, pre-COVID-19, normality.
Space for at Least 30 Bookmakers
The three-day carnival at Warrnambool will feature seven jump races and 23 flat races, including the popular Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Crowds still won’t return to their pre-pandemic levels, though, as they will be capped at 12,000 per day. Race-goers will be divided into two zones, ensuring that everyone complies with COVID-19 distancing protocols.
The great news about the Warrnambool carnival is that almost all bookmakers will return to the track and they will operate at a capacity not seen since the start of the global pandemic.
The Warrnambool main betting ring will work at 66 per cent capacity. However, organizers have allotted enough space around the course for at least 30 bookmakers. These bookies will be there every day during the three-day-long carnival.
A Victory for Bookies
According to Lyndon Hsu from the Victorian Bookmakers’ Association, the return of almost all bookies to the course was a sign that things were moving in the right direction.
He said that if every bookmaker who got a position before the pandemic, was allocated a position for the carnival this year too, that represented a victory for everyone involved.
Mr Hsu added that they would be encouraged if what they planned was pulled off and that the carnival would be a defining moment for Victoria bookies, especially when it came to catching up with what was happening in NSW, South Australia, Queensland, and Western Australia.
The logical step for him is to now encourage punters to come back to the course too. Mr Hsu said that with the big bookmakers returning to Warrnambool and with telephone and online bets working in full flow, they were hoping to bring back the high-stakes punters next. However, he stressed that they would have to show “sufficient ring strength” to convince high-spending bettors that they can place their $2000 or $3000 wagers as safely as they used to.
Punters are Returning Too
Mark Atchinson, a local bookmaker, shared those sentiments and added that the first week of May was going to be a big week for the whole town. He said that a lot of local businesses relied on the carnival and that small enterprises from there to Terand, Camperdown and Port Fairy were counting on the carnival being a success.
Mr Atchinson was one of many bookmakers who weren’t able to start online betting businesses or offer telephone betting. However, since courses started reopening, he attended most of the smaller events in the western district.
He said that there was reasonable money at those events similar to that of previous, pre-COVID, years. He noted that most of the bets he took were $5 each way, but that there were also a lot of young punters with $50 each way wagers and $100 the win.
According to Lyndon Hsu, those smaller events were nice indicators of the recovery the on-track bookmaking industry was making, but that the real test was going to be the three-day carnival at Warrnambool.