What an eventful year it has been in racing across this great industry of ours!
Nationally, we saw the Trainer & Owner Reforms (TOR) implemented, bringing into play a new system for trainers and owners with regard to their training and co-owners agreements, dispute resolution and debt recovery. Racing Australia did the “usual”, and introduced 20 new or amended Rules of Racing. We also saw the much-mooted Point of Consumption tax (POCT) legislated in most states. This aims to generate new state taxes for Governments from losing bets on their races, irrespective of where that bet is/was placed. POCT is set at varying rates around the country, as low as 8% in Victoria, 10% in NSW, to a high of 15% in jurisdictions including Queensland, South Australia and ACT. Racing authorities MUST be diligent, MUST engage with Government, and MUST ensure this new tax does not adversely impact racing and racing revenues.
At the state level, so much has occurred; it has been hard to keep up.
In WA & SA, we had a change of government (Labour & Liberal National Party respectively); hence, a new Racing minister to “educate” on racing and our needs & wants. In Queensland, New South Wales & Tasmania, we had new ministers appointed to the Racing portfolio - and whilst not as dramatic as a change of government, yet another need to double the efforts to ensure the hard work and momentum built up with the previous incumbent was not lost on the incoming minister.
In WA, the sale of the state owned & operated TAB continues to be the subject of ongoing debate. Equally, whether the current racing authority, RWWA, would be best served broken down into three-code specific bodies (greyhound, harness & thoroughbred), rather than left to operate as one umbrella body as is the case currently.
In Tasmania, debate continues around Elwick racecourse and the best way to manage redevelopment of the course proper. This track is badly in need of an upgrade, and we can only hope the continued lobbying of the industry representative group, TAN (Thoroughbred Advisory Network), and the independent stakeholders (which includes the ATA), produces action on this front, sooner rather than later. CEO Vaughn Lynch elected to step away from Tasracing after 2 years. We thank Vaughn for his efforts and support of the industry, and of the ATA, during that time. On a positive note, the introduction of the TASBRED incentive scheme from 1 August 2018, with the support of the state government, is a step forward for racing, ownership and breeding interests generally.
Infrastructure continues to dominate discussions in SA. The debate rages around the merit of building new on-course stabling at Morphettville racecourse. SAJC, TRSA, the ATA and a number of local trainers are contributing to this discussion. It MUST happen for a variety of obvious reasons, watch this space as the conversation continues.
In regional SA, the Gifford Hill Racecourse development, on the outskirts of Murray Bridge, already boasts a new racetrack, tunnel and undercover stalls. The final phase of this $35m development, construction of a $20M grandstand, is well underway, with completion of this state of the art facility scheduled for October 2019. At Mt Gambier, the $3.3m course proper upgrade is well underway, and due to complete in the first half of 2019.
In Queensland, the Eagle Farm track ‘saga’ continues to dominate discussions. It is difficult to hide the disappointment of the participants and industry towards those who have had carriage of this project. We are finally seeing some “blue sky”, with a strong likelihood this track will be reintroduced to racing at the end of 2018. It will be a welcome return for everyone if this occurs, after a long and often painful 4 years in the racing wilderness.
We also saw Brendan Parnell take the CEO reins from Eliot Forbes at Racing Queensland. There is much to do in Qld to advance the interests of thoroughbred racing, and in particular, to recover lost ground to the southern states of NSW and Vic around prizemoney and infrastructure. That message has been presented loud and clear to Brendan, together with a strong pledge from the ATA that we will work closely with him and his team to help drive matters in an effort to improve the racing landscape for all.
Finally, we have seen NSW and Victoria announce a further round of prizemoney increases in their states for the coming season. NSW will provide participants with $260m of combined stake money and incentives, Victoria’s pool will total $228.5m. It is fantastic that both states continue to allocate increased wagering returns to participants as improved prizemoney year on year, a fact not lost on the ATA nor the participants themselves. Both peak bodies, Racing NSW & Racing Victoria, are to be roundly congratulated for this strategy.
We also saw the advent of a “race free Monday” trialled in Victoria, with two meetings run on the Wednesday, and the second meeting a twilight. Wagering was the big winner here, with a 20% increase in betting turnover for the trial period versus the Monday/Wednesday single meeting combination. Given this success, Racing Victoria will broaden the trial in the 2018/2019 season, with an extended race program catering for 15 dual meeting dates.
As you can see, the grass never gets the opportunity to grow under our feet in this industry! 2017/2018 was as busy a year as we can remember at the ATA, with not only change and challenge aplenty, but also change that was significant in the context of the industry and the impact it will have on all participants for the short and longer term.
On behalf of the ATA team nationally, I wish all of our members every success for the coming 2018/2019 racing season.
Chief Executive Officer