Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey


Off-Course Betting - On-Course, of course!

An extensive exchange of e-mails mid-2016 with a former TAB “casual” reminds me of an early oddity in TAB operations - not one that ever impacted CDA to any great extent - but certainly one worth documenting, and that is the introduction soon after VicTAB’s opening of “off-course” betting agencies on the four main Melbourne tracks.

The catalyst for the introduction of what were initially manually-operated agencies on-course was the unexpected success with off-course punters of the Daily Double (later Quadrella, Trifecta and other “exotics” with the chance of a windfall dividend), but with the limitations inherent in the track-side totalizator equipment, the only option for those attending the track  was a detour to an agency en-route to the races.

On-Course operation commenced on 21 December, 1963 after a great deal of press publicity.  Selling on the Daily Double was provided at Moonee Valley from three buildings and 14 windows and attracted a turnover of £4,711.

On-course facilities were extended to country tracks from 22 January, 1964 and to the Showgrounds just three days later. A permanent On-Course manager, Mr Noel Youl was appointed on 25 January, 1964.

An edition of TABLOID, the VicTAB staff newsletter in February, 1976 described the on-course staff as “Victoria’s biggest punters” … “… on a typical Saturday, they arrive about 9.30 a.m. and set up for the day. A totally manual system, selling starts before the first race and builds up to a peak just before the Double closes …”

Given the limited on-track turnover and intermittent frequency of meetings spread across the four metropolitan tracks, it was never considered feasible to install RIOTS connected to RIMFIRE with the exception of the Showgrounds with its weekly trotting and later (from 30 October, 1976) at Moonee Valley when it became the main standardbred venue with its regular Saturday-night meetings interspersed with the day races around once a month.

Normally the name of the agency where the bet was sold was on the rear of the ticket and nothing else, but on-course the TAB used double-sided carbon paper for the second copy of the ticket as an added disincentive to anyone wanting to alter numbers or add units.  As well as registering the bet on the third copy in the normal way, the double-sided carbon caused a mirror-image to also be recorded on the back of the copy issued to the punter - any attempted alteration of the face of the ticket after it was issued would not be reflected on the reverse.  

Another simple measure when provincial win-and-place was introduced was to use different coloured ballpoints for each race, immediately eliminating the chances of anyone altering the race number (this was a throw-back to the earliest days of tote betting when races were “colour-coded” - either printed on different coloured tickets for each race or printed using alternative inks)

The double-carbon system was, like many other aspects of early VicTAB operations borrowed from a similar system initiated by NZ TAB.

One of the favourite attempted “scams” was to place a one-unit wager of five or six horses and then to attempt to add a nought to the units - this was easily counteracted by training sellers to always write bets in the middle of the appropriate box, making any addition off-set and immediately suspicious.  (This also applied to horse number 1 – if number 10 or higher won, there would regularly be a bright spark who would try and add the appropriate digit after the 1).

To facilitate speedy pay-outs, the original was not matched with the duplicate until a later date. Quadrella and Daily Doubles were not paid on the same day, but could be collected at head office or at another race meeting within thirteen weeks. Generally, only daily doubles and quadrellas were sold at the TAB on course, though later on at Saturday metropolitan meetings, win and place bets on that day's TAB provincial meeting could be placed (although only ever a small turnover).

From the middle of 1981 the on-course tote began taking over the selling of Daily Doubles and Quadrellas, but the TAB maintained a presence at tracks where the on-course tote was not sufficiently advanced to offer these bet types. The last manual TAB operation on course was probably the Colac Cup meeting of 9 February 1983. After that date Control Systems Totalisators took over the operation of Colac's on-course tote, and they sold daily doubles and quadrellas from their own ticket issuing machines.

In 1986 everything reversed when the TAB began taking over as the sole totalisator on and off course in Victoria, until Tabcorp assumed that role in 1994.

Our correspondent spent a year or two supervising the automated outlet at Moonee Valley and recalls that during the Saturday afternoon race meetings, many punters were disappointed that while they could place multiple win and place beta on the provincial meetings via the RIOT/RIMFIRE outlet, they still had to front up to different manual windows to bet on the local and interstate fixtures normally covered by the on-course tote.

(With thanks to Chris Robertson)

See also : The  TAB -Taking The Punt

Samples of the double-carbon ticket : this simple security method had been used by the New Zealand on-course totalizators for several decades