23 May 2023

TAB deal gets government approval, greyhound racing still on notice

1:54 pm on 23 May 2023
Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty has approved a deal for a British company to partner with the TAB for 25 years, and is considering banning other forms of online betting.

He has also released a report into greyhound racing, saying the status quo is "no longer viable" and the industry must either shut down or face strict conditions - but says he's likely run out of time to do that before the election.

McAnulty announced the moves at the Karaka Pavilion, headquarters of New Zealand Bloodstock, in South Auckland on Tuesday afternoon saying the deal with UK betting company Entain would deliver at least $900 million in guaranteed funding to the racing industry in the next five years.

"The agreement provides an upfront payment of $150m upon approval of the agreement. In addition to this there will be a 50 percent revenue share from day one with guaranteed payments of at least $150m per year for the first five years.

"This deal will reverse falling revenues for racing and provides certainty over the coming years."

The TAB announced the proposal to partner with Entain - which runs the Ladbrokes betting chain - in March, but needed the government to sign the deal off.

At the time, it was proposed Entain would invest $1 billion over the next five years in the TAB, provide $10m sponsorship for racing carnivals, refresh the TAB brand, systems and facilities, and guarantee the jobs of all staff for the next two years.

TAB's chief executive had said it faced competition from international operators but lacked the capital to compete, and would need to cut distributions if the deal failed to go ahead.

McAnulty today said Cabinet had agreed in principle to extend TAB's monopoly to include online sports and race betting.

"The onset of unregulated online gambling changed the game and our racing and sports industry has been losing money ever since," he said.

"Regulating this environment offers a significant new revenue source for local racing and sport, while also addressing the inherent risks in unregulated online gambling."

He said TAB had confirmed it would put $5m towards gambling harm minimisation, making use of Entain's facial recognition technology.

"By prohibiting online gambling outside of the TAB the Government can place greater controls over the betting environment. We would expect to also see much more money allocated to harm minimisation, a fairer deal for Kiwi punters and sports codes and a greater focus on animal welfare."

Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty announces TAB deal

Kieran McAnulty, centre, chats with other industry members before the confirmation. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Dunn

Greyhound racing moves unlikely before election

McAnulty also released a new report on the greyhound racing industry.

It followed a review from September 2021 commissioned by then-racing minister Grant Robertson which found 13 of the problem areas highlighted in the previous Hansen report were still a concern, and said Greyhound Racing NZ (GRNZ) had maintained a "culture of silence" against those pushing for greater reform.

Robertson then wrote to the industry saying while these could be overcome, it must address data, transparency and animal welfare concerns and was "on notice", or the industry would lose its social licence to operate.

McAnulty said the Racing Integrity Board (RIB) report released today showed the industry in its current form was no longer viable.

"We are faced with two options: continue under strict conditions or closure," he said.

"I originally intended to publicly release the report for stakeholder discussions early this year but this was delayed due to extreme weather events.

"Unfortunately the delay has meant I've likely run out time to bring a decision before Cabinet before the election."

He said he had instructed RIB to continue working with GRNZ to prioritise and improve animal welfare in the meantime.

McAnulty told RNZ last October the status quo could not continue and he was considering a ban but would wait on the final report.