Trotting horse owner and former Port Pirie identity Gary Crocker has taken the reins of the Harness Racing South Australia Board.
The new chairman will continue to race the successful Major Crocker while supervising Port Pirie’s switch from Friday to Sunday harness racing meetings.
Mr Crocker grew up in Port Pirie, attended Risdon Park Primary School and Port Pirie High School and worked in real estate here. He continues to work in home finance.
He said he aimed to bond “all of the industry together” while contending with a diminishing slice of betting revenue for harness racing.
The declining revenue is despite an explosion world-wide in wagering. This has brought myriad gambling opportunities compared with yesteryear.
“It is a difficult time. The Sky 1 and Sky 2 situation highlights that,” he said, referring to Port Pirie’s change to Sunday so that it has guaranteed national coverage on Sky 1 television.
“There is a huge push from every gambling angle in the world to get a part of the cherry.
“We need to stabilise and ensure there is a good, viable sport or industry going forward.”
He said punters had many more opportunities to place a bet these days.
“I was talking to a friend who had a bet on soccer in Stuttgart and it was 1 o’clock in the morning,” he said.
“The days of going to the track are dwindling. It can be freezing cold and you could be home instead watching Sky Channel with a lovely meal and glass of wine.”
He said he wanted the findings of the Cunningham Report, completed 12 months ago on the industry, to be introduced.
“I am sure harnessing racing SA could not be in better hands, but we are probably facing some of the hardest times you can face,” he said.
“I would classify ourselves as a business and industry, not sport.”
It is a highly competitive scene on the track in South Australia with gallops, trotting and greyhound meetings being held.
Thoroughbred horse races take two minutes to be telecast while trots needs three minutes and greyhounds require only 30 seconds.
The dilemma for harness racing is that the telecasts can feature more gallops and greyhounds because the events are quicker.
In fact, five greyhound races can be covered in the time that one trotting event can be seen.
“Competition for the punting dollar has never been more voracious,” Mr Crocker said.