Australian Racing Interests Prepare for Battle

4 March 2002

According to a spokesman with the Minister of Gaming and Racing in New South Wales, Australia, a Monday meeting of racing interests in the territory was a huge success.

No course of action was decided upon, but the spokesperson said that it was unanimously agreed on to research various options to offset the introduction of betting shops operated by Internet bookmaker Sportingbet, which recently announced it will move its Vanuatu operation to Australia.

The British bookmaking firm has revealed plans to set up shop in the Northern Territory, a decision that's seen as a serious threat to existing racing and sports gambling operators in Australia.

In an unprecedented move, Gaming and Racing Minister Richard Face called a meeting of racing interest in New South Wales last week to band together and form a unified front to counteract the move by Sportingbet. The racing industry in the territory is notorious for not getting along and being splintered, but all of that may be in the past, according to the Minister's spokesperson.

"It isn't often that you get them together," he explained.

Although this is something to be proud of, he said reaching agreements on what areas to explore in combating the move by Sporingbet was even more remarkable.

Face, who proposed many options to those present at the meeting, pointed out that there were no descending votes.

Track owners and bookmakers in the territory are contemplating a number of actions to take. Initiatives include:

  • ceasing a feed of bookmaker fluctuations to ACT and NT race courses;
  • restoring a ban on the use of mobile phones on course;
  • expelling the NT and ACT thoroughbred principal clubs from the Australian Racing Board;
  • charging ACT and NT wagering operators for the right to field on NSW racing;
  • prohibiting the licensing of NSW bookmakers involved with interstate corporate bookmaker enterprises.

The next step for the NSW group is to determine which option is the most feasible and whether multiple steps should be taken simultaneously.

"They are now working out what course they will follow, and that will probably come out in the next couple of weeks," he said.

Australian racing interests have yet to meet face-to-face with Sportingbet, something that might not happen anytime soon.

"We wouldn't expect that until we go to them and say, 'Look this is what we are going to do and we will give you two weeks,' or something like that," the spokesperson said. "If they are still operating by then we will implement our plan."