In mid-May the much anticipated Racing Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament, it received its first reading on the 31st of May, and following submissions to the Bill which had to before Parliament by June 4th it is now at the Select Committee stage with a report due this week.
There were 46 submissions presented to the Select Committee from industry stakeholders and sporting codes. The NZTBA presented a submission in support of the changes. During the debate of the Bill the age of old question of who owns the TAB was raised. Since the introduction 2003 Racing Act which created the New Zealand Racing Board this question has been asked by many and probably never really answered.
What should be considered in this question is the fact that nearly 80 years ago the TAB was formed by the Racing Clubs to secure funding from the wagering by forming a communal totalisator. Prior to this there was only on course betting to provide revenue to the clubs, any other wagering off course was operated by illegal bookmakers.
Betting on sports although not as lucrative as the NZRB would have you believe has certainly changed the face of wagering. It’s fair to say that in the last 80 years wagering has changed enormously, especially in the last decade with the advancement in technology and the TAB as we knew it isn’t necessarily relevant.
From Select Committee it will progress to its Second Reading, followed by presentation to the Committee of the Whole House - the purpose of this stage is to allow members to work through the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a bill, then the Third Reading which is usually the summing up of the Bill its approval and the final stage before the Royal Assent into law.
The most important clause in this Bill due to be enacted by 1 July 2019, is that it will put into immediate effect a transitional governance arrangement. It proposes the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) be reconstituted as the Racing Industry Transitional Authority (RITA) to drive the transition of the industry over the next 12 months.
And it will give RITA a legislative mandate that encompasses change management as well as the current business-as-usual functions and powers of the NZRB. In other words, the existing board of the NZRB – independent members Bill Birnie (CNZM), Graham Cooney and Chair Glenda Hughes, along with the code nominees Greg McCarthy (Thoroughbred), Rod Croon (Harness) and Mauro Barsi (Greyhounds) will be replaced by RITA.
The second part of this Bill is to also bring some financial relief for the industry by making offshore betting operators contribute to domestic racing and sports codes from the bets they take from New Zealanders.
Although the members of RITA are yet to be officially announced, the members of the Cabinet appointed MAC Committee that has undertaken the review of the Messara Report and assisted in developing the proposed changes to the 2003 Racing Act in the Racing Reform Bill, have all agreed to come across to RITA.
The MAC Committee members are Dean McKenzie (Chair), Sir Peter Vela, Liz Dawson (ONZM), Kristy McDonald (QC, ONZM) and Bill Birnie (CNZM). Liz Dawson is a previous independent member of the NZRB, and Kristy McDonald is a previous Chair of the Judicial Control Authority for Racing. They will be joined by two further directors who are yet to be appointed and should be announced next week.
While this gives us hope for the future, the mandate does cover “business as usual” which means that over the next 12 months we may not see a lot of changes in personnel, however hopefully we will see a positive change in the direction, leading to Wagering New Zealand and Racing New Zealand, where the codes run themselves. RITA will also work to report on the final industry structure to take place at a time determined by Bill No. 2 due to be later this year.
For further information on the Bill and its background you can read the Bill on the NZ Legisation website. www.legislation.govt.nz and for further background the suite of three papers released by Cabinet in April can be found on the Department of Internal Affairs website www.dia.govt.nz/Racing.review
And for more comment check out Brian de Lore’s blog www.theoptimist.co.nz and an recent interesting article by Reuben McDougall https://www.odt.co.nz/sport/racing/turn-it-racing-revolution - Michelle Saba