As a young girl growing up on a stud farm in Karaka, Anna Stove had a desire to be involved in the thoroughbred industry, but never in her wildest dreams did she think it would be as the interim Chair of TABNZ.
Stove the daughter of well-known racing identity the late Brian Mollet, aspired of being an equine veterinarian, however when that didn’t eventuate, she embarked on a career in nursing.
After working in that field in New Zealand and the United Kingdom she ventured into sales, sales management, product management, in Pharmaceuticals which led her into the corporate world.
Stove took over the Chair role on September 1 she was previously Deputy Chair of the Board, after being appointed to the TAB board in 2021 after the legislative changes to the Racing Industry Act in 2020.
Prior to that Stove was a member of the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) that was established in 2019 with a mandate to enable changes to the racing industry.
As the new Chair her key focus will be around the new legislation surrounding geo-blocking.
“We are about the only developed country that doesn’t have this, it’s always just been a bit of a loophole in our legislation,” she explained.
“It’s also about harm minimisation so part of this situation is there is no responsible gambling net around anyone who bets offshore. So, if we know people are betting under our jurisdiction, we know that we have tools in place to keep them safe so that is a key piece in getting the legislation through.
“As well there is a significant upfront payment from Entain, along with extra minimum guarantees, so about a million a month we would get after that, would go out to the codes and sport. It’s a huge amount of money.”
It is estimated that around $400 million a year is lost in online gambling with offshore companies and the legislation will provide a net to capture that money.
The TAB have been working with the DIA on the proposed legislation and it will kick off again in October following the election.
It’s been an interesting four years since Stove was approached to sit on RITA and she admits to learning a lot about finding her way around legislative changes. At the time of her appointment, she was Deputy Chair of the Counties Racing Club, the Pukekohe club closely associated with her father, and had not long retired from the New Zealand General Manager’s role at the international pharmaceutical company GSK.
“I was asked to join RITA due to my racing industry knowledge and involvement,” recalled Stove referring to the knowledge gained on the Mollet family stud farm Progressive Farms.
“I also had significant Global executive experience and a track record in leading and driving transformational change. However, I knew very little about running a wagering organisation. That’s why you have a diverse board and different people that bring different strengths.
“My knowledge was improved by visiting TAB retail outlets, speaking to internal and external key stakeholders and spending time on the trading floor with our analysts and bookmakers. I also had to learn very quickly about getting two Racing Reform Bill’s through parliament.
“RITA’s remit was to reform the industry into a more sustainable structure and support them as they went through that change to ensure the long-term success of New Zealand racing. Our monthly Board agenda was structured around John Messara’s 17 recommendations.
“Each recommendation had a workstream attached and many needed policy, legislation and comprehensive regulations for the proposed changes to take effect.”
Over the last four years Stove has been berated by people at the races, at the sales, and social events with people asking her what the hell is she doing as the industry is in a mess and was told the board was too slow to act and should have sold the business.
“It’s been a challenging few years, then you suddenly put this great deal together and now we are on this trajectory that is going to give us a sustainable future. It’s interesting that no one is patting us on the back when things are now going well,” she said reflecting on the fickle nature of the industry.
“We inherited years of mismanagement and we have made a massive change. We now believe the future is looking great. Our job on the new TAB board is around monitoring Entain and that the partnership is performing. They have got off to a great start, but its early days.”
The Board had three contenders for their joint venture operation however Stove said that Entain stood out due to their focus on market growth as opposed to the other contenders who focused on market defence.
Entain were more open to negotiating and offered and delivered an outstanding dollar deal with an immediate and significant uplift to racing and sport. As well they had world class gambling harm minimisation tools and processes.
“We knew we could work with them,” she said “There was a great culture and chemistry between the TAB and Entain Management teams, and they guaranteed the jobs of 460 staff for two years. Entain are investing so much at the moment, which is something we have never had, and there is plenty more to come with the likelihood of another second TAB brand next year, for the younger market, that will also give more choice.”
With plenty to look forward Stove is confident she has the right board in place. She is joined on the Board by former Gambling Commissioner Wendie Harvey, Raewyn Lovett who has a legal background and high-performance sports focus and Bill Birnie a finance specialist who was also on RITA and is now the Harness code representative.
The DIA is currently reviewing the TAB Board code membership and Stove is keen for a wagering specialist to be appointed.
Stove is still based in Karaka albeit in a different location from where she grew up, and along with her husband Kerry run their bloodstock interests under Progressive Farms mantle. As a member of the NZTBA she is anticipating the imminent arrival of foals by Embellish and Belardo and has a yearling filly by Embellish as well.
She has racehorses currently in work with Pam Gerard at Ballymore Stables, Peter and Dawn Williams and Shaun and Emma Clotworthy. It’s a passion she grew up with and is a legacy to her father Brian, who gave so much to the industry as a former stud master, Master of the Pakuranga Hunt and Life Member of the both the NZTBA and Counties Racing Club.