The ups and downs of technology in sporting

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Modern technology is a marvellous thing with all the bells and whistles of today making life much more accessible.

We have come a long way since the early days of the 1950's with such as handwritten TAB betting tickets being replaced by Internet betting.

However, last Saturday things went pear-shaped over the ditch with TABCORP crashing, which brought the whole racing industry in Australia to a grinding halt.

The major crash lasted into the next day, with estimates of the financial loss on one of the biggest days of the season, estimated at $100 million.

The repercussions flowed over the Tasman to our country, with the New Zealand TAB co-mingled pools being locked down, with betting in Australia being unavailable.

The huge giant of off-course betting in Australia has its origins in New Zealand with the establishment of the New Zealand TAB in 1952.

There was continual pressure to establish off-course horse racing betting from the time that bookmaking was outlawed in New Zealand in 1910.

Despite bookies being illegal, bookmaking flourished with every town in the country having a bookie in the towns hotels and snooker salons.

Legislation was passed in 1949 to establish off-course betting under the control of the Totalisator Agency Board, but it wasn't until March 1952 that the first two TAB's were opened Fielding and nearby Dannevirke.

TAB agencies quickly followed in Invercargill, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Ashburton, Timaru and Rotorua.

Twelve months later, there were more than 150 TAB's were dotted through the length and breath of New Zealand.

While illegal bookmakers were tolerated as part of society until the advent of the TAB, the arrival of legal off-course betting saw the pursuit and prosecution of SP (starting price) bookies occupy many a policemen's time.

New Zealand was a very conservative nation in the 1950's, with a myriad of anti-drink and gambling protesters abounding.

The early TAB's were in back streets often with shuttered windows and very little advertising of their purpose.

The methods of arriving at the race dividends were a very cumbersome process.

The total number of bets on each horse were calculated manually and phoned through to the totalisator operators at the race track from head office, and added on to the on course bets.

While TAB patrons could listen to race commentaries and hear the on course dividends, which was also the TAB payout, payment wasn't available to the next day.

Each race closed (for betting) 90 minutes before start time.

TAB tickets were formulated by hand in tripicate and the retained stubs used to calculate the first-level totals.

Agencies phoned totals through to branches who then telephoned head office, who calculated county-wide totals using adding machines.

The final piece of the jigsaw, was head office phoning through totals to the race track totalisator 45 minutes before start time, to come up with the dividends.

Betting was restricted to win and place, and a daily double of picking the winner of two nominated races.

The manual off-course betting system, which now seems like a complicated and antiquated betting platform, was superseded by Jet Bet - the first computer driven betting platform in the mid 1970's.

Jet Bet opened up the many exotic betting options of quinella's, trifecta's, all-up bets along with trebles, quaddies and Pick6.

Today, the TAB offers racing and sports betting from throughout the world, through satellite and fibre optic feeds, which is a million miles away from the hand written tickets of seven decades ago.


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