Few specific post-election promises for racing industry

The contest for the racing vote in this year’s election is a three-horse race.

Labour, National and New Zealand First have all released racing policies before Saturday’s general election.

The policies may best be described as a bunch of vague post-election promises.

Like announcements on other policy areas, each party’s announcement contains the usual election hyperbole. However, within the three parties’ policy statements, which pore over the facts and figures of how much racing contributes to the country’s economy, they contain few specific post-election promises.

Traditional racing industry favourite New Zealand First could lay claim to delving the deepest of the three parties at an issue that strikes at the heart of the racing voter —  prize money.

New Zealand First has included in its policy the suggestion of a $15,000 minimum race category which, in its own terms, would be relative to each racing code.

The party also plans to restore its racing policy from leader Winston Peters’ time as racing minister from 2005 to 2008.

The Peters-led scheme resulted in the likes of the New Zealand Derby for thoroughbreds boosted to a massive $2.2million prize pool and the New Zealand Trotting Cup go to a stake as high as $1.2million.

What New Zealand First does not specifically address is in what form it would frame legislation to overseas bookmakers who take bets on New Zealand sports and racing products.

The racing industry has been desperately holding out for such change which is seen by many as a huge pay day for the game.

Those claims are based on a working group’s findings that calculated that in 2015 $45million that would otherwise have gone to racing and sports organisations was lost through the lack off a taxation scheme for overseas bookies.

The National Party has already progressed the key legislative change — known within the industry as the race fields legislation — through the Racing Act Amendment Bill, which had its first reading shortly before Parliament was dissolved for the election.

National has pledged to keep pushing for the change, something Labour also wants to see, in principle, through its policies. Where the three parties definitely differ is their approach to the contentious issue of pokie money.

New Zealand First states it will defend what it calls a modest share of the gambling proceeds  racing receives. The National Party has also backed  the continuation of the more than $8 million in gaming revenue racing  receives.

The Labour Party wants to see racing continue to collect that money for the purpose of infrastructure and safety.

However, it wants to stop pokie money going towards anything it does not consider to be for the social good. Labour also does not want to see more pokie machines being put into racing club premises.

Although it does not have a racing policy, the Green Party does have a comprehensive gambling policy which focuses heavily on the distribution of pokie money.

Among the Greens’ blueprint is a proposal to "amend all gambling legislation to ensure the primary focus is the elimination of gambling harm."

Safety of the participants of the racing industry is an issue all three parties have signalled is a priority and is an area set for a boost should National, Labour or New Zealand First MP handle the racing portfolio in the new government.

That will mean the Racing Safety Development Fund will be an important industry tool that will  continue to have money poured into it.

Labour is the only party to specifically address the contentious issue of high ACC levies racing participants are forced to pay. The party claims its safety improvements will results in  a drop in injuries, which will then lower ACC levies.

- Jonny Turner

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