The thoroughbred industry in Ireland is worth hundreds of millions to the Irish economy, yet you'd think it was purely for ribbons judging by the regular incompetence of its ruling body, Horse Racing Ireland.
The bookie who left Listowel races last weekend owing thousands has missed his monthly fee payment to HRI by direct debit SEVEN months in a row.
Dalton: ‘HRI should not have allowed me to stand at Listowel’
The Killarney-based bookmaker, however, maintains that HRI and it’s betting division manager, Paul Finegan, should emerge from the debacle with little credit.
Explained Dalton: "My direct debit to HRI bounced seven months in-a-row. That direct debit is for pitch fees and levy and would come to approximately €2,000 a month.
"I owed HRI €4,500 and they stood me down for two and a half months. I then got a loan for €4,000 and Paul Finegan, on behalf of HRI, took that and told me I could pay the monkey (€500) when I had it.
"I returned to bookmaking at the Curragh on the Saturday and Sunday before Listowel. I lost €2,500 on the Saturday and a friend paid that for me. I didn’t do any damage on the Sunday and then headed for Listowel.
"I went to Listowel with no money and didn’t set out to rob anyone, but was under desperate pressure.
What an utter farce. It only directly affects maybe a couple of hundred punters at most, but the stain on the industry costs far, far more. The cynical public already think bookies are crooks and any time you get one over them, no matter how much you bend the rules, is a good thing. But the negative publicity from this just adds to it, and the HRI only have themselves to blame. It appears to be the softest licensing system known to man.
Fielding as a bookmaker should be a privilege, not a right. Acquiring and holding a licence should be a difficult task with a lot of hoops to jump through. This bookie has had more than enough problems to remove his licence, and yet they just laugh it off, allowing someone who is simply the corporate version of a problem gambler to continue trading!
Bookmakers (on-course and corporate) should be forced to lodge significant monetary security bonds with the licensing body. The size of the bond should depend on the type of licence and size of the business. If a bookie is only going to hold €5k for a day at the races, then his fee should be much less than the biggest guys in the ring willing to stand €50k at a time (if there are any of those left!). On-course bookies also pay into a co-operative fund which is there to cover the debtys of any fielder who goes bust, owing punters money. This system has been in place for decades in Australia and it serves its purpose. Any bookie to have gone bust in recent decades has paid out all punters, and everyone is happy. Punters haven't been stiffed and they come back again.
Racing wants to be professional, it wants to squeeze as much money out of bookmakers as it can, money which comes directly out of the hands of punters. Punters are the customers here, they are the investors. Erode all confidence in the product (racing) and the management (HRI) and the industry is screwed. Bit by bit, HRI are on their way to achieving that goal....