Danger for the racing industry . The racing industry – thoroughbreds, standardbreds and dogs – should be apprehensive about the financial future after the announcement this morning that Tabcorp, the operator of the TABs in Victoria and New South Wales, now has a bookmaker’s licence in the Northern Territory. The taxation advantages of operating from Darwin’s Fannie Bay race course are considerable and the payments to the racing industry are minimal compared with the payments guaranteed under the Tabcorp TAB licences. In simple terms, the TAB currently pays out about 9.6 per cent on every dollar turnover in NSW to the Government and the industry which provides the product but, with a NT licence, it will only pay 0.33 per cent to the NT Government on racing plus any ‘product fee’ (say, about 0.21 per cent) it might give to NSW racing. TAB shareholders will surely want to see as much business transferred from NSW to the NT as possible where the company will pay the lower levies and thus increase their profits and dividends. Sydney bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse pointed out to me that the TAB has three parts to its tote business: the traditional costly-structured TAB agencies and Pub-TABs, the lower cost phone call centres and the internet betting. The phone and internet parts are what might be migrated to the NT. Victorian racing, he warned, faces a worse problem than NSW. Tabcorp’s Victorian TAB licence comes up for renewal in 2012 and if the licence is relinquished the company stands to receive the statutory compensation for the ‘shop fronts’ they control (thought to be $650 million). It could then ‘cherry pick’ the profitable phone and internet parts of their business and move them to the bookmaking licence in the low-tax NT. The Northern Territory Racing Commission also granted a licence to operate from Darwin this morning to Tom Waterhouse, the son of Robbie Waterhouse and racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse, and one of Australia’s biggest punters, Sean Bartholomew. The Racing Commission says the approvals depend on certain conditions, including finding premises at the Fannie Bay racecourse and getting access to approved software.

The heart beat away . Who Barack Obama and John McCain will choose as their vice presidential running mates still has the pundits and the punters guessing and the Crikey election indicator (based on the prediction markets) has the two races wide open. For both the Democratic and Republican party contests the Indicator, after giving a probability to the most often mentioned choices, has “any other person” the clear favourite. Of the named candidates, Jim Webb heads the Democrat list with Mitt Romney the leading Republican.

Changing drinking locations . The commitment of federal Labor MPs to workers receiving proper treatment from their employers will be put to the test following a $30,000 fine handed yesterday to the proprietors of a favourite drinking hole after Parliament adjourns. The Holy Grail at Kingston (and a stablemate of the same name in Civic which is too far from Parliament House to be fashionable for members and staffers) breached workplace relations laws. The Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell said an investigation uncovered some employees were underpaid their general wages, were not paid overtime, were not paid holiday pay, some casual rates were low and the employees did not receive some public holiday weekend rates. With the current scrutiny of the behaviour of MPs in public places, perhaps Labor MPs would be wiser to go straight home after work instead of seeking a law abiding alternative for their cavorting.

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