Veteran bookmaker Mick Rolfe has stepped down from two administrative posts but he has no intention of calling it a day on four decades of fielding on Sydney racetracks.
An Australian Turf Club gesture to honour Rolfe’s terms as chairman of the NSW Bookmakers’ Co-Op and the Australian Bookmakers’ Association has unwittingly left the bagman to fend off a host of “well-wishers” on his “impending retirement”.
The Thankyou Mick Rolfe Handicap at Warwick Farm on Saturday has turned out to be a source of confusion as well as recognition for a bookmaker who has been happy to embrace industry challenges.
“It’s a very nice gesture by the people at the ATC and very humbling for me … I didn’t want it and I didn’t expect it,” Rolfe said.
“The trouble is everybody thinks I am retiring. I have been getting text messages and phone calls from people wondering what is going on.
“I’m definitely not retiring. I’ve been a bookmaker for forty years and I’m still going strong.”
Rolfe has over the years worked closely with racing administrators in different capacities and he supported Racing NSW in its campaign to charge a 1.5 per cent turnover-based fee for betting on NSW thoroughbred racing.
He will operate a stand at Warwick Farm on Saturday confident there will always be a place for an on-course fielder despite corporate bookmakers dominating the Australian wagering landscape.
“Obviously it’s been difficult to compete with the corporates but I think we’ve got a future,” he said.
“I think it’s still very important there is an on-course presence.
“On the big days we fill the very, very special need for punters to have the option to take a price from a bookmaker or accept tote odds.
“And while there is a fairly mature market come raceday now because of early betting, I still think the racetrack is the hub of the pricing mechanism.”
He said the ATC’s $150 million Randwick redevelopment was a strong incentive to keep working.
“I gave some input from a bookmakers’ perspective and I’m excited about what the redevelopment will offer,” Rolfe said.
“While we work in a very competitive environment, at the end of the day we all rely on each other to ensure racing remains vibrant.”