12 May 2020

Govt bets on Racing industry not going bankrupt

1:43 pm on 12 May 2020

A $72 million emergency financial relief package has been announced by the government for the racing industry.

The view down the main straight at Awapuni.

The view down the main straight at Awapuni. Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

Minister for Racing Winston Peters said the racing industry was already in a weak financial situation prior to Covid-19 but the pandemic had hit it hard.

Peters said the industry risked insolvency if it didn't receive support.

"We can't guild the lily... there is a genuine risk of insolvency and (of) the industry losing the future gains of its reforms.

"This announcement is the first step towards a long term restoration of racing."

The support package consisted of a $50 million for the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) and $20 million to construct two new All Weather race tracks.

There was also $2.5 million for the Department of Internal Affairs to fast track work on online gambling revenue and to look at the impact of the loss of gambling revenue on community and sport groups.

"Of the immediate grant, $26 million will be used by RITA to pay its outstanding supplier bill which it hasn't be able to do because of strangled revenue," Peters said.

"The other share of this package will ensure RITA, and each of the racing codes, can maintain a baseline functionality and resume racing activities.

"The racing industry is seriously underestimated for its economic contribution. For this reason the government will also consider recapitalising the industry to help promote a quicker recovery and achieve a greater economic outcome.

Peters said studies had indicated racing contributed $1.6 billion to the economy each year, with 15,000 full-time racing jobs along with nearly 60,000 jobs which participated in the industry in some shape - from vets to equipment suppliers, and owners.

"Over the next three months officials will assess recapitalisation options....(the government) will need to be assured industry reforms are making progress to ensure any such future investment is well directed."

The $20 million for the synthetic tracks would come from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The intention was to have one located at Awapuni in Manawatu and the other at Riccarton in Christchurch.

Construction of a track in Cambridge was already underway after receiving $6.5 million in PGF funding.

"The next step is for RITA and the Codes to consult with the local race clubs on the terms behind these projects," Peters said.

"Covid-19 has also impacted on funding available to community and sport organisations which receive a share of gambling revenue. There has also been an increase in New Zealanders gambling offshore throughout online platforms.

"Both trends are concerning. For that reason the government is fast tracking a programme of work by the DIA to re-evaluate the gambling framework of our community, sporting, and racing groups."