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Scenes like this on, from last year’s Grafton Cup meeting, are not happening at racecourses around the country, but racing continues without spectators and with social distancing measures in place for those participating. Image: file pic by Lynne Mowbray

And they’re racing … at Grafton (part 2)

The Independent chatted with Clarence Valley Jockey Club’s executive officer, Michael Beattie, to find out how the Grafton race course was faring under the COVID-19 restrictions.

Mr Beattie said the “protocols are fairly extensive about how licensed people interact at the races”.

”From my perspective, looking at the way the licensed people have adapted, the system has been upgraded as things have gone along.

“The first week of lockout, trainers came into the enclosure to speak with their jockeys.

“They can no longer do that, conversations have to take place over a barrier [with a minimum 1.5 metres of separation] – and where there has been a breach of best practice protocols, those things have been addressed.”

Much like governments around Australia, Mr Beattie said it was unclear how the jockey club would emerge from the restrictions once they are relaxed.

“It’s fair to say it is going to be an extremely challenging time, despite the fact the industry is still participating and carrying on,” he said.
“It will be very dependent on when we come back … [I’m] trying not to think about it until I know when it is.”

Mr Beattie said his club had “flagged an interest” in the Jobkeeper scheme, however, he said “in many respects it will be our casuals over the July carnival who will suffer most”, many of whom would only be eligible for the Jobseeker payment.

“At this stage, [though], we continue to trade as close to usual as possible,” he said.

“All full-time staff are still required, as are casuals, although their duties might differ slightly.

“We’re not needing to go Jobkeeper [yet], pending our revenue stream dropping off.”

Meanwhile, data collated by analytics consultancy, AlphaBeta, and credit firm, Illion, revealed that online gambling increased by 67 per cent during the week preceding March 29.

On this, Mr Beattie said a reduction in other forms of gambling could account for some of the online gambling increase.

“There are massive losses in face to face gambling, including at clubs, pubs and TABs,” he said.

However, Mr Beattie said the racing industry would receive a share of the extra online gambling revenue.

“That will flow on – we get funded by turnover of dollars – to clubs through the revenue streams,” he said.

But some of the face-to-face gambling revenue might not return to previous levels.

“I think we’re losing the small punter,” Mr Beattie said.

“They’re not interested in online gambling, they’ll probably just watch the races for six months [and might not punt anymore], as a result.”

Read Part 1 of this story: www.clarencevalleynews.com.au/and-theyre-racing-at-grafton