Mumbai: Mahalaxmi club chairman dismisses land sharks eyeing SoBo’s prime plot theory - Peddler Media -->

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Mumbai: Mahalaxmi club chairman dismisses land sharks eyeing SoBo’s prime plot theory

Mumbai: Mahalaxmi club chairman dismisses land sharks eyeing SoBo’s prime plot theory

Just like the pandemic has meant online work, remote work or working from home, several work spaces have downsized, or shut operations altogether; online betting may mean that crowds at the race course shrink further.

A file picture of joggers at Mahalaxmi Race course after the lockdown. Mumbai racing is now on at the Pune race course. Pic/Bipin Kokate

In these unusual times, where the refrain is the new normal, online betting may become the new way to be at the races. On Sunday, the punters following Mumbai racing which is currently on at the Pune race course, could log into the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) website and follow instructions to bet online.

Club chairman Zavaray Poonawalla claims teamwork, dedication and passion with a 12 by 7 effort got the green light for online betting. The silver-haired first amongst equals of Western racing, Mr ZP, as the chairman is known, said he was tired and elated at the same time. Asked whether this significant win came with a cautionary caveat that land sharks will eye the Mahalaxmi race course, if attendance thins further because of online betting, when racing returns to Mumbai beyond the pandemic, Poonawalla stoutly denied it.

Poonawalla said, “This is not the be-all and end-all to turn around this beleaguered though beloved club’s finances. Yet, it is one step ahead and now, I can concentrate solely on the big fight, bringing the tax down from current 28 per cent.”

Zavaray PoonawallaZavaray Poonawalla

Amidst the rousing cheers, there is also the very real spectre of the Mahalaxmi race course under added threat, because of online betting. Just like the pandemic has meant online work, remote work or working from home, several work spaces have downsized, or shut operations altogether; online betting may mean that crowds at the race course shrink further. Racing could also be conducted at another centre, with punters free to attend, or bet online. ZP, though refused to entertain that possibility. He said, “I certainly do not think this will mean the land will be taken for other, commercial uses. We have a very good rapport with the current state government, it has in fact blessed us. I am sure, the government, or any other party will not take this land, they will not touch it, as long as we are here, in the hot seat.”

Expert view

Prakash Gosavi, this paper’s racing correspondent said, “online betting may not be a direct invitation for outsiders to eye the Mahalaxmi space, even more fiercely than they have in the past. The permission for online betting, is a welcome move but the big battle is the exorbitant 28 per cent GST to be paid along with the bet even before the race is run, irrespective of whether that bet turns out to be a win or loss. The permission for online betting has come as a boon for a special breed of punters, though. These are punters who are mainly interested in betting on the jackpot pool in the hope of a big score.” 

He added, “The club runs a special betting window just outside the Pune racecourse for those who do not want to enter only to buy their jackpot tickets. They both can now use their phones to bet through the app.”

Former RWITC chairman Vivek Jain said, “From the lease angle, the RWITC has to convince the state to keep the race course open and green. A win:win would be not to disturb the race track, stables and stands but to beautify the centre with a world class park with fountains, etc. which in itself would be a huge tourist attraction. The lease expired in May 2013 and sleeping dogs should not be allowed to lie, as it could well be the lull before the storm. The combination of a recreation sport with initiatives for the city in the central portion is a winning proposition.”

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