The famous camel races at Boulia have been declared a “sporting contingency” so bookmakers can legally operate.
The famous camel races at Boulia have been declared a “sporting contingency” so bookmakers can legally operate.

Camel races hit a speedhump

QUEENSLAND'S outback camel races have hit a major hump after officials discovered betting on the meets was illegal.

Punters at last weekend's camel races in Bedourie were left spitting when racing officials warned off two bookmakers who attended the event.

Crowds gather in Boulia for the Melbourne Cup of camel racing. Cane toad and cockroach racing are unlikely to be affected by the legality.
Crowds gather in Boulia for the Melbourne Cup of camel racing. Cane toad and cockroach racing are unlikely to be affected by the legality.

The Palaszczuk Government, Racing Queensland and the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission could not explain yesterday whether punting on camel racing had been inadvertently outlawed under recent reforms or whether the illegality had been accidentally overlooked for decades.

Cane toad and cockroach races are not expected to be affected.

The camel betting conundrum has sent authorities scrambling to find a solution ahead of this weekend's meet in the tiny outback township of Boulia, and for next weekend's Winton meet.

Racing Queensland has taken the extraordinary step of declaring the Boulia Camel Races a "sporting contingency" so bookmakers can legally set odds and take bets.

Boulia Camel Races committee member Beck Britton said yesterday that the issue of whether wagering would be allowed had been touch-and-go all week.

With the camels in fine form for the 22nd Boulia Camel Cup, organisers were fearful that the not-for-profit event would be hit hard by the betting ban.
With the camels in fine form for the 22nd Boulia Camel Cup, organisers were fearful that the not-for-profit event would be hit hard by the betting ban.

Ms Britton said a suggestion that stewards would be required, at a cost of $3000, would not have been possible for the not-for-profit event.

"That's been a controversial issue over the last week," she said.

"At Bedourie Camel Races last weekend, bookmakers were advised they were not allowed to take bets on the camel races."

Ms Britton said organisers had now been told that punting would proceed.

Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said he became aware of the issue only after former Nationals MP Vaughan Johnson raised the alarm.

He said he was determined to ensure the great outback tradition of camel racing continued.

BUMPER DAY OUT FOR THE CAMELS IN BOULIA

Boulia, meanwhile, is preparing for what is the Melbourne Cup of the Outback, one of the state's quirkiest race meets.

Tiana Taratoa, of Charleville (pictured with Ace) at 16, will be the youngest jockey in the field and can’t wait for the races to start at Boulia this weekend. Picture: Adam Head
Tiana Taratoa, of Charleville (pictured with Ace) at 16, will be the youngest jockey in the field and can’t wait for the races to start at Boulia this weekend. Picture: Adam Head

While the Birdsville Cup is often dubbed as the race that stops the Outback, the Boulia Camel Cup, now in its 22nd year, has also become a must-reserve date.

The town's population swells from 300 to several thousand when more than 20 camels from around the country compete for a comparatively lucrative prize purse of $30,000.

Charleville's Tiana Taratoa will be out to add her name in the history books with Ace. At 16, she is the youngest jockey in the field and is competing for the second time after placing third last year.

She has dreamt of racing camels since she was 10, but finally saddled up at 15, winning her first race last week.

"I just love camels," she said. "Racing them is amazing."



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