NZRB recovering from poor start for new website

New Zealand Racing Board chief executive John Allen told a public meeting at Wingatui last night his organisation was recovering from the poor start its $40.8million website made.

Allen said the New Zealand Racing Board, which ran the New Zealand TAB, had seen fewer active customers on its new website.

The website, a combined project between the NZRB and overseas companies Paddy Power Betfair and Openbet, was intended to boost racing industry profits by facilitating a large number of betting options.

Widespread chatter among bettors suggested website users struggled to adapt to using the new site and that had put them off placing bets.

Allen admitted that was the case and it had hurt the NZRB's bottom line.

"We had a group of customers, who just found the conversion to the new site really hard.

"We thought we had done the hard work to get them. But we didn't even closely hit the mark.''

Allen said the NZRB had worked with its customers to attempt to regain website users they had lost.

"So, we have had to go back and work with those customers.

"We have about 11,000 active account users a month, which is not where we were [before the new website], but it is much, much, much better.''

Allen ruled out a return to traditional betting methods.

"There are no plans to extend that phonebet service back to what it was.

"The cost of that service is very, very high, when there are more cost-effective options available.''

Just hours before Allen addressed those gathered at Wingatui, the first of two Bills that put the future of the NZRB in doubt had its first reading in Parliament. Racing Minister Winston Peters introduced the Racing Reform Bill, which had its first reading yesterday afternoon.

The National Party indicated it would support the Coalition Government-led bill through to the select committee stage.

The Bill, which is set to be rushed through a two-week select committee process, sets out to make significant structural change to the racing industry.

It will allow a transitional governance arrangement that would reconstitute the NZRB as the Racing Industry Transitional Authority.

RITA would then have the power to significantly restructure the industry and enact the recommendations of the Government-commissioned Messara Report.

The Racing Reform Bill also sets out to charge overseas bookmakers for the use of New Zealand sports.

Allen told last night's meeting the board of the NZRB would be dismantled, rather than the whole organisation.

"The actual board, in terms of the employees, will continue.

"It is not automatic that the 700 people in the racing board lose their jobs.''

The meeting was poorly attended, by just 18 members of the Dunedin racing industry.


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