RACING Victoria Limited (RVL) is standing by its decision not to allow bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse to work the rails at next week’s Warrnambool May Racing Carnival despite calls from the Premier to re-think the ruling.
In an 11th-hour plea, Warrnambool Racing Club (WRC) and Premier Denis Napthine urged RVL and the Victorian Bookmakers Association (VBA) to overturn its decision, saying the colourful racing figure would attract additional punters to the three-day meeting.
But RVL chief executive Bernard Saundry said yesterday the organisation was open to discussions with WRC and the VBA about upgrading the bookmaking status of the 2015 carnival to that of metropolitan meetings — but not this year’s.
“Such a decision requires appropriate consultation with all parties and is not something that we could consider on the eve of this year’s carnival,’’ Mr Saundry said.
“Racing Victoria has an agreed policy with the VBA, which affords priority to those bookmakers who have stood at the racecourse in the previous 12 months.’’ He said RVL was not prepared to parachute one bookmaker in at the expense of those who have worked at country meetings throughout the season.
Dr Napthine also denied there was a conflict of interest over his support for Mr Waterhouse, who was banned from practising bookmaking for 14 years over his role in the Fine Cotton ring-in affair.
Mr Waterhouse’s wife Gai Waterhouse is the star attraction at a Liberal party fund-raiser on the last day of the races, but Dr Napthine said the $100 per person event was organised months ago.
He said there was “absolutely no conflict of interest whatsoever” and accused the Labor party of muck-racking.
The Labor Opposition said Dr Napthine’s decision to support Robbie Waterhouse was not a good look, especially in an industry where integrity was critical to the sport’s survival.
“For the Racing Minister to involve Gai Waterhouse in a party political endeavour — a fund-raiser for himself, demonstrates arrogance and bad judgement on his part,” opposition racing spokesman Martin Pakula said.
“Denis Napthine clearly fails to appreciate that perceptions are everything in an industry that has no future without the highest levels of integrity.”
The Premier initially made his comments about Mr Waterhouse being unable to work at the carnival in The Standard on Monday.
He never lobbied Racing Victoria over the decision. Dr Napthine also said he had not spoken to the Waterhouse couple.
Mr Waterhouse was granted a Victorian bookmakers licence last November, and has stood at three Melbourne meetings since.
Social justice advocate Tim Costello said he was shocked by Dr Napthine’s position, as well as his promotion of betting.
“I would have thought, given (former NSW premier) Barry O’Farrell’s sudden demise, that every premier would be on high alert on public perception, even if it appeared innocent,” Mr Costello said.
“We know Australians are able to place a bet with multiple option without the urgings of a premier. It is not befitting of the office. The Premier should not be spruiking the gambling industry.”