PREMIER Denis Napthine has urged Racing Victoria to reconsider a decision not to allow high-profile bookmaker Rob Waterhouse to work on the rails at next week’s famous Warrnambool May Racing Carnival.
The governing body advised Waterhouse and the Warrnambool Racing Club (WRC) of its decision late last week.
Racing Victoria (RV) will not permit the colourful bookie to work in the main betting ring, instead offering him a stand in the corporate area for the three days.
RV and the Victoria Bookmakers Association say bookies who wish to work at the Warrnambool carnival must work at other country meetings during the year.
But Mr Waterhouse, who is the husband of champion trainer Gai, said he had applied for meetings without success.
The flamboyant bookie told The Standard yesterday he and his wife Gai would still attend this year’s carnival despite the decision, but may not return to Warrnambool again.
“I’ve just felt it’s very disappointing that I will not be allowed to work on the rails at the carnival because of the ruling from Racing Victoria,” Mr Waterhouse said.
“The decision is no fault of the Warrnambool Racing Club. They have bent over backwards to help us. Gai has commitments at Warrnambool for this year’s carnival and she will fulfil them.
“I would say if the ruling is not changed by next year, this will be the last Warrnambool May Carnival that we will be attending.
“It’s disappointing because we just loved last year’s carnival. It’s the best country carnival in Australia.”
The Standard believes Mr Waterhouse held more than $80,000 in bets on one day at last year’s carnival.
The bets included $30,000 on-course and more than $50,000 in phone bets from across Australia when he was working on son Tom’s stand.
Dr Napthine, who is also Racing Minister, is hopeful the issue will be sorted out early this week, saying RVL can use its discretionary power to reverse the decision.
“I hope something can be worked out. My view is to have Robbie Waterhouse working on the rails at the Warrnambool carnival is a win-win for everyone,” Dr Napthine said.
“Any business needs to grow and I firmly believe having Robbie Waterhouse working on the rails will grow the racing product in Victoria and will also grow the Warrnambool May Racing Carnival.
“Robbie will attract punters to the main betting ring if he is working there ... He will take some big bets and other bookies will benefit if he decides to lay off bets so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
RV chief executive Bernard Saundry said guidelines were clear for bookmakers wanting to work at the Warrnambool carnival.
“We’ve got a policy put in place regarding bookies working at the carnival,” Mr Saundry said.
“We feel it would be unfair if we parachute a bookie into taking another bookie’s place at the carnival.
“It would be tough to change things now at the 11th hour regarding bookies’ stands at the carnival.”
Feelings between the Warrnambool Racing Club and Racing Victoria have been tense since the peak body slashed $50,000 from the prizemoney for the club’s Oaks Day meeting last November.
WRC chairman Des Roberts confirmed he and club CEO John Green made a rushed trip to RV headquarters at Flemington last Tuesday to meet with Mr Saundry and Racing Victoria’s commercial development manager Stuart Laing.
Mr Roberts said the club was “extremely disappointed” with Racing Victoria’s decision. “We’re doing our best to promote racing and have high-profile people attend our carnival,” Mr Roberts said. “We were hoping our association with the Waterhouses would have been a long and fruitful one which would have been a big bonus for racing in Victoria, but after Racing Victoria’s decision it has clouded everything.
“We thought we put forward some compelling reasons to Racing Victoria why we wanted Robbie Waterhouse to work on the rails.
“I must admit I was amazed when our reasons fell on deaf ears but, in saying that, I was also amazed when they took $50,000 stake money out of our Oaks Day meeting.”