Letter: Why floodlit fixtures should end earlier.
SURELY it is time to address the issue of floodlit evening racing fixtures during the winter months. It has got to the stage where every bookmaker must agree there is little commercial benefit to be gained from staging racing so late in the evening at this time of year. The vast majority of betting offices are deserted after 8pm and this, in turn, poses a security risk and a threat to the safety of vulnerable staff.
Floodlit winter meetings are perceived as 'betting office fodder', but the reality is that these cards are scheduled at times when very few people remain in the offices and turnover is negligible.
It could be argued, in fact, that there would be numerous advantages for the various sectors of the betting and racing industries if these fixtures were scheduled to start and finish earlier. Perhaps a firstrace time of 5pm and a last-race time of 8pm would be more beneficial.
Many off-course operators would welcome such timings. Turnover on UK racing would increase (as would levy contributions) simply because more people remain in the offices in the early evening than later on, and people returning from work may well drop in for a bet on the way home (the 5-6pm crowd should not be underestimated).
An earlier schedule would also allow operators to close a little earlier, bringing security benefits, while legislation would still exist enabling the larger firms to keep selected offices open for FOBT business where appropriate.
Indeed, it would perhaps be surprising if the larger bookmaking plcs were not in favour of such a move, given the current economic climate. A scenario in which the big firms could close perhaps two-thirds of their estates at 8.15pm rather than 9.30pm would reap serious savings on staffing costs, not to mention the positive effects on staff morale.
As already mentioned, the British racing industry would benefit through potentially higher levy payments generated from higher turnover. In addition, one would imagine the majority of racing professionals (owners, trainers, stable staff, jockeys, etc) would welcome the prospect of an earlier end to the working day, given that many of the industry's hard-working individuals are up at an unearthly hour on a daily basis also.
In short, one must hope the different sectors of the betting and racing industries (including racecourses that habitually draw sparse crowds for these cards) can see that the status quo simply is not working. Indeed, it is hard to see who the losers would be should the proposal put forward above be adopted.
Are the floodlights burning too long into the night at evening fixtures?