According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, a government agency, close to one million people have regular punts on horse and dog racing and expenditures for racing codes represent over half the total.
Nice to know, but how do you bet on the races?
Unlike sports betting with two-outcome propositions, ignoring the occasional draw, most of the big spring and summer Thoroughbred races have six runners or more.
Punters who care to go after dividends bigger than the sure thing Winx offers when she runs, or Black Caviar offered when she raced, find picking a winner in a race like the Victoria Derby or the Melbourne Cup is quite the challenge.
Statistics indicate that a favourite wins a race about 30 percent of the time, so that is a one-in-three proposition. When you look at some of the long shots that have come in, such as Prince of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup that crossed first from a starting price of $101, some idea of the difficulty in picking a winner is apparent.
An each-way bet, where the punter wins if his selection runs first or second, offers a safer way, but uncertainty is still there.
Ladbrokes has a popular feature where punters can back every horse in the field against the favourite. This swings the pendulum in the punter’s direction, with a corresponding decrease in the odds.
There are many other ways to bet on racing. The bookmakers seem ceaselessly creative in this regard. They also offer plenty of free bets and promotions, something that will supply the punter with a bit of an edge.
Even casual bettors like to chase the Cups Double and pick the winner of the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. There have been only 11 times in the 150-plus year history of the two races where a horse has won both in the same year. A Cups Double offers almost lottery-like winnings and the bet finds favour with those who do not wish to put a lot of effort into race betting.