This was a massive win for racing TV channel TVN at the expense of the established racing order, in the form of Racing NSW, and its chairman Gary Pemberton and CEO Peter V’Landys. In anticipating the judgment in favour of TVN, I hoped the judge would take the opportunity to say a few words in addition to “TVN Wins” – and she didn’t disappoint.

The matter cannot, however, stop there. The implications of the judge’s comments go to the very heart of the Board of Racing NSW (RN) and, at some point, will spill over into the political arena. The close working relationship of the CEO and Chairman of RN, as revealed by the damning emails flowing between the two of them revealed in court, confirms earlier indications of a mutual admiration society with a membership of two.

It turns out that V’Landys, then the new CEO, talked Pembo into taking the job as Chairman of RN – and Pembo went on to declare V’Landys to be “a very good operator, someone capable of making him look like a good Chairman”. But the best laid plans of men, and others, can come unstuck spectacularly.

And these were the two new boys; most of the rest of the RN board were also there in 2002 when the Board “unanimously” pursued a licensed person beyond the pale. There is something amiss with the mindset of the RN Board – and the Board needs to be thoroughly overhauled. One of the most interesting revelations during the court hearing was V’Landys’s excuse for not attending a critical Board meeting; he had gone to see the minister who, he explained, was being kept in “constant contact,” presumably with developments in meeting the challenge posed by TVN.

One can only ponder what might have been said. Presumably there was full and frank disclosure of the RN battle plan and obstacles, from one side of the table, and in return, from the other side, who knows? One would love to know what ministerial guidance was given and who briefed a minister not well known for taking a close personal interest in “matters racing”.

As conveyed by its CEO, the RN Board felt it had a regulatory responsibility entrusted to it by “our participants” to look after and protect “their income streams”. In reality the legislation was from “our Parliament” to look after “our community”. This RN mindset is simply rotten to the core: RN has no concept of TAB customers being numbered among “our participants” and absolutely no intention of protecting the (negative) income stream flowing from the pockets of TAB punters, and into the pockets of the “our participants” favoured by RN.

The new Board of RN should be carefully chosen to first ensure necessary reform of a bloated local racing industry, and then ensure that what remains operates under clear commercial criteria and delivers the best value their money can buy to TAB customers – principally TAB punters. Hopefully we have heard the last of the debilitating mindset that sees RN (and its unholy allies in government and the industry) conducting racing as a rampant mercenary monopoly, screwing as much as it can from the community and distributing the proceeds among those it deems needy.

The future is coming with a wet sail – preferably the clubs will run racing entertainment (including broadcasting) on commercial terms, in accordance with sound administrative rules set by RN, and TAB (and Betfair) will sell the tickets.

Check out this assessment by UBS of the impact of the decision, and this online report.

Peter Fray

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