The proposed sale of the wagering arm of Tote Tasmania, recently announced by Racing Minister Michael Aird, leaves many important questions unanswered and a strong feeling of uncertainty among Tasmanian racehorse trainers and industry participants.
When announcing the sale, the Racing Minister guaranteed that it would not hurt racing in the State and the long term viability of the Tasmanian racing industry.
Without wishing to be too cynical, there are not many in the community who respect guarantees or promises given by politicians. They have a track record of breaking them.
The wagering license in any racing jurisdiction is one of the most sought after commercial tenders. But in this environment of “profit at all costs”, it is imperative that verbal guarantees and reassurances are translated into legally enforceable conditions of sale. The Tasmanian racing industry must demand a lot more than political rhetoric from the Minister before it endorses the sale of its only “real” source of revenue and given that it “owns” the racing product from which wagering revenue is derived, it must stand firm and ensure that “Tote” is not hived off to the highest bidder with no effective guarantees of income and revenue to keep the industry alive and viable and moving forward.
Prize Money, the only real measure of an industry’s viability and profitability must be guaranteed - not just at the presently unacceptably low and totally outdated levels - but must keep increasing if the industry is to survive and maintain the levels of participation by owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, stable staff and employees and the host of support industries that keep the industry ticking over in Tasmania.
The experience of the mainland States has shown that in some instances, the wagering arms of the racing industry have been literally given away to the successful bidder, and has resulted in hopelessly depressed returns to the industry, while investors reap the benefits of their paper transactions on the stock market and have reaped tens of millions of dollars by trading profitability in shares in an industry which to them is nothing more than a milking cow.
Pandering to the “wall street” mentality of stock market investors and their brokers must not be allowed to determine the sale and ultimate fate of Tote Tasmania’s wagering arm or more importantly the lives and financial viability of those that keep the industry ticking over.
The Tasmanian ATA is determined to seek guarantees that are meaningful from the Racing Minister and the Tasmanian State Government. The Tasmanian Racing Industry and its wagering arm must not be sacrificed to fund whatever community vote winning projects that cannot be funded from state revenues. Nor can its viability be compromised by motives of profit and self-interest from those who have neither an interest in, or understanding of, or a passion for thoroughbred racing.
We will be seeking a meeting with the Racing Minister as a priority when he returns from leave.