Turn it up! Where to now Winston?

Foreign Minister Winston Peters. Photo: Getty Images
Racing Minister Winston Peters. Photo: Getty Images
More than a week has passed since Racing Minister Winston Peters announced the latest reforms for the racing industry.

In short, two Bills will be introduced to the house this year that will provide the framework for major legislative change.

Effectively, the current Racing Act will be reworked so that recommendations in the Messara Report can be enacted.

The most immediate change for the racing industry will come when an information charge for overseas betting operators is enacted in July.

"Finally, it is here!" will be the cheer that rings out from racing officials when this long-awaited legislation is finally set in stone.

But the wait for "race fields" legislation has been so long that there is little to cheer about, as far as I am concerned.

Of course, in many ways it is a brilliant thing for racing.

If you think about it, it is highly efficient revenue.

New Zealand Racing gets paid by overseas companies for a product it already pays to produce.

I believe the current thinking at racing headquarters is that the more overseas bookmakers use our product, the better.

New Zealand simply sits back and collects the fee.

Though they are through overseas-based companies, plenty of those bets come from within New Zealand.

In my opinion, overseas operators simply offer a more attractive service.

The functionality of their service and their ability to offer enticing promotions and betting offers make them highly attractive.

The TAB's new website seemed to be a move to up its game to compete with these modern, overseas players.

So far though, it does not seem to have had much of an impact.

The race fields legislation allows the New Zealand racing industry to have a dollar each way with the punters that choose to bet elsewhere.

The New Zealand racing industry will soon collect a fee from their bets, just as they effectively would from a bet through the New Zealand TAB.

The only risk to the information fees legislation is that it effectively relies on the overseas-based companies to pay their fees voluntarily.

After all, it will be a law made in New Zealand, rather than where they are based.

Talk before the last attempt to enact this legislation through the recently scrapped Racing Amendment Act was that the overseas companies indicated they would play ball.

With such a positive case, why am I not beaming with joy on behalf of the racing industry as this cash cow awaits?

Firstly, it is hard not to look back and count the cost of not having this legislation.

The New Zealand Racing Board has previously indicated not having his law has been costing the industry $1million each month.

That leak was set to be plugged by the last National government, which introduced the Racing Amendment Act and gave it its first reading.

Not long after, Winston Peters was back in the hot seat as racing minister, he scrapped it and called it "not fit for purpose".

Word from Parliament now tells me the Cabinet papers suggest the legislation will be "largely based" on the withdrawn National Bill.

That makes sense given the very short amount of time there is until the new Bill will be introduced.

That suggests the industry has been leaking $1million each month for the sake of some political manoeuvring.

If that is true, it will be highly disappointing.

So, while the announcement of the information charge and this year's two Bills for reform are positive, excuse me for not jumping for joy just yet.

Oh, and one more thing - the racing board has already spent some of the information charge income on the anticipation it would be coming in.

Happy trails.

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