Australia’s pre-eminent racing consumer advocate Peter Mair has taken issue with the Sydney Turf Club’s desire for even more government handouts.

While appreciating that this is the silly season, such remarks should not be allowed to be pass without comment.

The reported rationale for the extra $50 million is that, if the industry improves its efficiency and saves $25 million then their (appointed?) agent, the TAB, would go to government and get a matching $25 million in taxation relief. Lewis Carroll would be in awe of this nonsense.

May I first say, tongue in cheek, that the outcome under this formula would be better for the industry if its present inefficiencies could be increased prior to a start being made to conduct the industry properly — more savings would mean more money in total.

Taking the tongue out of the cheek, may I now say that the industry should get about the business of conducting itself efficiently without looking for ‘rewards’ — penalties for past, self admitted, inefficient behaviour would be more appropriate.

More generally on behalf of the customers of racing, and the community more generally, could I put in a plea for no extra taxpayer money to be put into racing in New South Wales at all for the time being. On the contrary, from the broader perspective of the general community interest, there is a very strong case for existing “entitlements” of the racing industry to money from government coffers to be wound back.

In New South Wales, and Australia more generally, the pressing need is for a fundamental review of existing ‘entitlements’ of the racing industry to government funding.

There is a role for government to contribute prize-money for racing. But only on terms that ensure a clear, direct commercial connection between government money that is ‘put in’ and the ‘take out’ from the betting pool contributed by customers of racing, (preferably of substantially more funds than are put in).

For some unfathomable reason the racing industry has previously been encouraged to believe it is ‘entitled’ to ear-mark government revenues for discretionary allocation to the ‘interests of racing’ on criteria devoid of any commercial rationale.

One would like to think that the ‘S’TC, among other interests of racing, is about to be brought into the modern world of commercial disciplines where ‘minimum costs’ are incurred against the prospect of ‘maximum revenues’.

Not even the customers of racing would want more racing by more horses at more tracks for more hours on more days — the customers of racing have had enough. The wider taxpayer community — the other 90% — would be astounded if it were explained to them what is currently happening by way of allocating government money for racing and the basis on which that money is distributed.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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