Country bookie giving punters a chance

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the nation, Racing NSW clubs have been forced to hold their meetings behind closed doors, meaning owners can’t attend the track and watch their horses race. 
This initially meant that owners wouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to bet on their runners either, another blow for those looking to recoup costs or have a leisurely punt.
Wellington-based company Southern Cross Bet are now giving those owners and trainers a chance to at least bet on their nags, offering markets on these community and picnic meetings. 
The betting company made their introduction into this niche market on Saturday, when taking bets on the Murrumbidgee Turf Club picnic meeting. 
Southern Cross Bet owner Mark Johnston utilised his years of experience bookmaking on country and picnic meetings to develop the online platform and said that his own involvement in the racing industry spurred on the idea. 
“I was a bookie for 17 years at country meetings and to be honest, this website was a couple of years in the making,” Johnston said. 
“I probably would have regretted not doing it and I know it will be a challenge but I would be disappointed if I didn’t at least have a go.
“I have owned dogs and race horses and I, like many other owners, love having the opportunity to bet on my own runners and now we are offering that, even though these meetings are being raced behind closed doors.”
Johnston believes his online website could be a catalyst for other country bookmakers changing platforms, suggesting there is a future in online betting at these community meetings. 
“Hopefully this is the first step for a lot of country bookmakers, I think punters should have that access to bet online,” Johnston said. 
“It could definitely be the way of the future.’
Although only five weeks into his online bookmaking foray, Johnston was happy to offer any advice to other bookmakers who were considering changing platforms. 
“If other bookmakers want to know what to do, and what not to do, I am happy to offer any advice,” Johnston said. 
The newest online bookmaker said that the decision to take bets on last weekends Wagga meeting proved to be a success.
“It definitely was successful, I think I picked up 35 new customers who I probably wouldn’t have had without the meeting, and going into Albury (tomorrow), I have already picked up seven or eight new customers,” Johnston said. 
Johnston further explained that punters were already chasing markets for tomorrow’s meeting at Albury. 
“There are a lot of punters out there keen to have first crack at their horse and I have had about 10 phone calls in the last 24 hours asking when markets will be released for the Albury meeting,” Johnston said.
Southern Cross Bet’s owner said that he was happy to give owners, trainers and general punters the opportunity to bet and was confident of keeping their patronage with a strong platform and customer service base.
“I want to give everyone the opportunity to bet and getting a chance to be a bookmaker at these meetings has been good marketing for us,” Johnston said.
“I have been able to get punters I wouldn’t normally get and if they see we have a good service on offer, I am confident we will keep them.”
For those punters keen on betting on Albury tomorrow, or visiting Southern Cross Bet, you can go to visit