Turn it up! Is racing at rock bottom?

I can not remember a time during my involvement in this industry when the mood has been at such a low.

The general feeling among those heavily vested in racing appears to have hit rock bottom.

Of course, each code has its own specific set of challenges and most of those are well known.

However, I believe it is a force that the codes have been facing together that has driven the mood down.

The industry stands in the middle of two sets of promises. On one side sits a stack of broken promises known as the strategic plan for the New Zealand Racing Board.

I won't list them all, but here is the biggest of them all.

During its last financial year, 2018-19, that organisation - now the Racing Industry Transition Authority - made an unaudited profit that is set to be announced at $137million.

That is a whopping $36.5million less than budgeted.

The hopes of achieving budget were driven by big dreams and great ideas that could not be delivered on.

We have heard them all before: increase customer account numbers, offer more bet types through a new fixed-odds platform, introduce modern product types to entice customers.

It all sounded great, but it has not worked.

Some, like the new fixed-odds platform, have not just failed, they have cost the industry money.

And what is racing facing now from its national body?

More promises.

That is all we have from the Government and plan to legislate and reform the racing industry.

John Messara created a blueprint for change that boosted the hopes of all participants. It promised to revive the industry to a prosperous level.

Unfortunately, right now, we have only those promises.

Despite reforms going through Parliament and the racing board changing to Rita almost nothing has changed materially.

Most of the time since the announcement of the Government-commissioned Messara report has been spent in arguments over which tracks should stay or be closed.

That has achieved nothing

The industry simply can not wait around for more promises.

Rita must address the performance of the TAB now through driving turnover now.

Last year's result, coming in $36.5million under budget and $8.9million back on the previous year, was driven by two factors.

It has been well publicised that the costs of racing board's operations is one of them.

The second and most important is a downturn in turnover and profit margin from that turnover.

People are simply not betting as much as they were.

Instead of hanging around waiting for magical solutions from legislative reform, Rita needs to put a major focus on revitalising interest in betting.

Why has turnover dropped off? What has to be done to rekindle the interest of punters? What do they not like about the current racing product? How does the TAB do a better job marketing and showcasing racing?

I will even give Rita some pointers.

Screw up the plan it has right now, the one that seems to hide racing behind a wall of sport promotion. Focus on your core business. Entice those racing fans back to have a bet. Offer them excitement.

Work with the racing codes. Do not just rely on them to promote racing.

And do your job - just like anyone in any other business would be expected to do.

Happy trails.

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