Speech to the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Annual Conference

  • Rt Hon Winston Peters
Deputy Prime Minister Racing

Good morning everyone.

It is a pleasure to be with you this morning to open this year’s New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Conference and AGM.

Firstly, thank you Dr Alan Jackson, NZTR Chair for your introduction.

And let us acknowledge also:

  • The NZTR Board;
  • Dean McKenzie, Chair of the Racing Industry Transition Agency;
  • Club and industry organisation chairs;
  • Chief Executives; and
  • Stakeholders.

Thank you for the invitation to attend this event and let me extend an apology for not attending the RITA AGM on Friday.  Late last week my duties as Foreign Minister took me to Washington and therefore attendance was not possible.

However, the point remains the same. This Government knows the importance and value of racing.

We recognise and support the racing industry’s place in the economic and social fabric of our country. 

The state of the racing industry

As you are all aware, the racing industry in New Zealand has faced its challenges.

Regrettably, previous attempts at reform have failed.

One reason the Government commissioned John Messara to review the industry was to act as a catalyst for revitalisation, and to pivot the industry towards a greater focus on economic viability.

The Government has taken swift measures.  The Racing Reform Act 2019 came into force on 1 July of this year to reconstitute the New Zealand Racing Board as the Racing Industry Transitional Agency.

As well as removing the betting levy, that Act progressed the Point of Consumption Charge and user information fees.

Our follow-up bill, is the next step in the reform process.  It will finalise the post-transition governance structure of the industry, enabling it to have a greater commercial focus.

Cabinet is in the final stages of decision-making for the second bill and we are currently meeting our timetable expectations.

The intention is to have the second bill introduced to parliament before the end of the year.

That bill will herald some fundamental changes.

The new governance structure will devolve the racing functions of RITA to the three racing codes and refocus the commercial betting, broadcast and gaming operations in a new entity.

As you know currently RITA runs the TAB as well as all the other racing code business. The new structure will separate the TAB component, so it is a standalone commercial entity. 

The Bill will introduce new arrangements and products for wagering to increase the financial viability and sustainability of the industry while simultaneously increasing the racing industry’s focus on minimising harm from gambling.

Governance structure

Our intention is to have RITA disestablished from 1 July 2020. After that, TAB NZ will assume responsibility for betting operations and the racing codes will take over responsibility for governing their respective parts of the industry.

This will place the racing industry in a better position for long-term sustainability, with minimal need for further government intervention of the scale of these reforms.

Racing industry property

A key area for further work is decisions on racing industry property.  If serious progress is not taken then the industry will suffer from inertia.

Changes relating to the ownership and utilisation of racing property will drive the economic recovery of the industry and support improved racing infrastructure.

This work includes proposals to release the capital from venues no longer required for racing to fund the refurbishment and modernisation of retained venues.

The preferred approach to achieving this is that clubs and codes reach agreement through negotiation. A statutory process is proposed to help resolve issues when agreements cannot be reached.

Racetrack consolidation for the greater interest of the racing industry has been a vexed question which simply put has not been addressed, and it needs to be.

The government does not have a predetermined view about any particular track.  It is ultimately and matter resolves through industry leadership.

Strengthened harm minimisation

As part of the reform work, the need for new revenue from wagering products must be balanced with the need to minimise and prevent harm from gambling.

To this end, the Racing Act’s purpose will be updated to provide greater alignment with the Gambling Act through an explicit statement on preventing and minimising harm.

The Racing Act will maintain its scope to offer race and sport betting products only.

No change is being made to the current restriction on the TAB’s ability to increase its share of the class 4 gaming machine market.

Concluding remarks

We said we would change this industry for the better and we have made real progress.

There is still much work to do, but this Government is committed to seeing through the reform of the racing industry so that the industry is revitalised, healthy and financially viable once again.

There is a reasons why the word “transition” is in the title of RITA.   That is because a transition phase was always going to be required. 

The decline is being arrested, and the turnaround is on the way.

The accumulative benefit of change are starting to be realised. Indications are promising, as you will all be aware.

NZTR, as advocates for the thoroughbred code, play a vital role in seeing this reform through.

All stakeholders, including owners, breeders, trainers, and jockeys, have parts to play in adapting to the new organisational structures that are to come, and to use the ongoing opportunity to revitalise the industry.

Today’s conference and AGM is an opportunity for you all to reflect on and celebrate the work that has been done, while also discussing the work to come.

We must look to the future and the opportunities that await us and the racing industry.

To all attendees today, have a successful and informative AGM.