Live betting during races to be introduced

Nathan Guy.
Nathan Guy.
After years of promises, the wait for action on the New Zealand racing industry’s race fields legislation is finally over.

The Racing Act amendment, known throughout the industry as the race fields legislation, will be put before Parliament as soon as possible, Minister for Racing Nathan Guy announced yesterday.

Although the legislation is mainly aimed at making overseas betting agencies pay their way when using the intellectual property from New Zealand races and sporting matches, it has another surprising inclusion. The Racing Act amendment will allow live betting during races. At the moment, only sports events can be bet on while in progress. The TAB confirmed it would  introduce live betting options on races after the proposed legislation  was passed but could not tell the Otago Daily Times in what form the live bets would be offered or any of the details on how the option would function.

Legalising live betting on racing in New Zealand is a move in the opposite direction to the way the Australian Government has changed its betting laws, this week. The Australian senate amended its Interactive Gambling Bill on Tuesday which will outlaw live betting on both sport and racing, as well as making online poker betting illegal. The main aim of the Racing Act reform is to capture the financial returns from overseas betting agencies taking bets on New Zealand races and sports. Currently, they are not paying anything for that privilege.

"These offshore operators use New Zealand race information for their bets without paying a royalty back to our industry for their use. Also, by not contributing any profits back to our communities, these operators are able to work at an unfair advantage to the TAB," Guy said.

The legislation will provide a royalty fee — which will be set during consultation on the legislation —  that overseas betting agencies will have to pay  if they want to keep using New Zealand racing fields or sports matches among their betting products. Right now, the Racing Act does not enforce any charges on independent overseas betting agencies, which means a big lost financial opportunity for  New Zealand sport and racing.

"A working group found that in 2015, about 40,000 New Zealanders turned over $518million offshore with $58million in losses — this represents potential lost revenue of up to $45million for local racing and sports organisations,’’ Guy said.A consumption fee will also be charged to the overseas operators, which will  result in a portion of betting turnover from oversees bets returned directly to the community.The royalty charges will put money directly into the each racing code’s coffers, which is news they welcome.

"This represents a significant step forward for our industry and is something all industry bodies have been advocating for some time," New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chairman Dr Alan Jackson said.

"The proposed changes will make the industry more competitive in an increasingly complex wagering market and provide real benefits for our stakeholders."

Harness Racing New Zealand Chairman Ken Spicer also praised the move to finally put the legislation before Parliament.

"This will provide a legitimate and overdue funding source that will help sustain and grow stakes within the industry for the benefit of our participants."

Although the legislation gives overseas agencies official status in New Zealand, the Government is not opening its arms wide open for them to make a mark in New Zealand. It will still be illegal for those businesses to advertise their products in New Zealand under the Gambling Act.

Despite that, overseas betting is still likely to keep increasing which will put further pressure on the New Zealand Racing Board, which operates the TAB,  to hold its market share.

"NZRB is also continuing to work on improving its competitiveness to enhance our customers experience and ensure they can receive the same level of service and options as they find offshore."

The legislation also includes changes to which sports the TAB can take bets on and how money from its betting turnover can be distributed to both sports and racing organisations. 

- Jonny Turner

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