Racing under siege with this proposed legislation

by Brian de Lore
Published 27 December 2019

Someone phoned Newstalk
ZB talkback radio earlier this month and said, “Don’t be fooled into believing
the elected government is running this country; it’s the bureaucrats, the
bosses of the 45,000-odd public servants in about 35 government departments –
they are the people really in control.”

Numerous lunatics call talkback, but that remark resonated and is probably truer today than it’s ever been. Think about the control exerted by Treasury, the State Services Commission and Internal Affairs (DIA), and especially the DIA in racing’s case – evident with this latest legislation that will take us straight out of the frying pan and into the proverbial fire.

… this legislation does not reflect the gravity of the circumstances racing finds itself in today.

The very first thing to
say about this legislation is that it does not reflect the gravity of the
circumstances racing finds itself in today. It’s political rather than a fix-it

Then, the structure is
nothing like the vision Messara had in his Review. On page six he said: “…the
current structure and regulatory hierarchy do not lend themselves to the necessary
level of code accountability or to sound decision-making and this can lend
itself to unnecessary government involvement in the industry.”

The legislation
currently provides far less devolution of power to the codes than the Messara
Review recommended and far more government control, not less, that the Racing
Act of 2003. Why would the authors want to give the Intellectual Property Rights
to TAB NZ and not the codes – it’s the rightful property of the codes and
morally belongs to the codes. To have the IP controlled by a government-appointed
board will have serious long-term consequences for racing.

The excuse given to The
Optimist for such a move was that overseas betting operators wanted to deal with
only one body, not three. That’s a lame-duck excuse if ever one was made, and is
unacceptable on all levels. Racing Victoria, for example, has successfully negotiated
47 separate contracts on their IP.

Worse still, the legislation is suggesting the Minister has sole discretion to make the TAB board appointments as opposed to the Messara Review which recommended a Minister appointed panel of three to appoint four of the seven appointees, with the remaining three board members coming from the Chairs of each of the codes or their delegates.

Are we not trying to get away from the system that gave us Nathan Guy, Glenda Hughes and John Allen, Minister?

Are we not trying to
get away from the system that gave us Nathan Guy, Glenda Hughes and John Allen,
Minister? The National Party threw racing under the bus with those three, and then
Winston promised us reform and self-governance and racing voted for it – read the
NZ First Racing Policy. But now the Minister is dishing out the same stuff
disguised as new legislation – hypocrisy!.

The anti-racing codes
theme in this legislation is even more blatant with its failure to finalise the
formula for the distribution of funds – section 16 in the Racing Act of 2003. That
very same Minister-appointed TAB board will decide after the regulation is
written (not legislation but changeable regulation) on how the distribution is
done, which gives no guarantee to any of the codes, or even if any the codes have
board representatives.

The bottom line is that
control of racing will rest more with the TAB than the codes. The door is now
ajar for sport to get a second foot in it, and gain greater representation and
put both hands out for a bigger share of the pie. The possibility of more sport
board members than racing ones is very real and would be a decision in the
hands of any future unknown Minister – that’s a bad joke when you consider
sport has contributed nothing to the set-up or running costs of the TAB but is
now infiltrating with the assistance of the DIA.

The Section-16 of the
Act mentioned above has treated thoroughbred racing unfairly since 2003 when
separate pools should have been established to give thoroughbreds it’s fair
share of funding. Racing anticipated the Minister would correct that imbalance but
instead, he’s opening the door for diminishing returns on percentage and
control of our code by more non-racing people of the kind that have shafted the
thoroughbred game over the past decade.

Completely ignored from the Review was Messara’s concept of a Racing NZ, a body of code representatives that would not be established as a separate administrative body but would act as a consultive forum for the codes to garner a cooperative understanding on all matters common to all three codes, and liaise with Wagering NZ on those matters.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Winston was saying he wanted racing to have self-determination

Two-and-a-half years
ago, Winston was saying he wanted racing to have self-determination with
legislation that would distance it from government and be safe from a disinterested
racing minister’s claws in 30 years. He engaged Messara to write the Review,
and the blueprint to achieve that goal was delivered in that review 18 months
ago. Then he appointed MAC, which became RITA, firstly to advise and then to
enact the Messara Review and transition it into legislation.

Littered through the
last 25 years of racing are disinterested Ministers – another one is certain to
be knocking on the door anytime soon. Racing should at all costs resist this
legislation which on important issues gives the Minister carte blanche control.
Rugby has become a mammoth betting medium but doesn’t have a Minister – why does
racing even need one?   

The plan may have
worked if Minister Peters had, firstly, stayed interested and not handed over
the management of racing to his political scientist Chief-of-Staff, and
secondly, had kept John Messara involved in an overseeing role to ensure his
Review was faithfully represented in the contents of all the legislation and
enacted in the parts that required no legislation.

In retrospect, the
failure of the Minister to follow up with Messara was a negative statement in
itself. His approaching Messara and then accepting his offer to do it
free-of-charge, receiving the Review in record time, and then cutting the umbilical
cord without even a phone call of gratitude must be way outside the accepted
protocols of a Minister of Foreign Affairs. Something else was going down.  

Someone or some people
have been in Minister Peter’s ear, it seems, and advised him poorly. Why else
would Peters not ever have picked up the phone and spoken to Messara since, and
even before the time Messara delivered his Review on July 31st,
2018. Not one word has verbally passed between them since; yes, a couple of
emails only, but that’s all despite the Review having been completed on a pro
bono basis in record time by the foremost experienced and successful racing
administrator Australian racing has known.

If you sight an official press release saying they are following the Messara Review, it will be nothing more than the lip service racing has been getting for years. The claim may say 90 percent adoption of the Review but in reality, it’s only about 30 percent in its present form, and that 30 percent, which is described in the Bill’s explanatory note as ‘resolving historic property issues,’ is saying the closure of the designated clubs will have their assets transferred to the codes.

The TAB will still have far too much control and will be made up of Racing Minister appointees

Even if the clubs
earmarked for the sword had previously been in support of the Messara Review for
the overall good of the industry, which is doubtful in most cases, they would
be furious now after reading the structural part of the legislation which is
full of government control, ministerial intervention and is a step backwards
from the Racing Act of 2003. The TAB will still have far too much control, will
be made up of Racing Minister appointees, and in essence, that means nothing
more than a continuation of the NZRB structure which has been a substantial
cause of the decline that necessitated the Messara Review in the first place –
Catch 22.

The Messara Review
clearly outlined a goal to double prizemoney, and to go about achieving that
aim it listed 17 key recommendations. Messara alluded to previous reviews that
had been completed and shelved, going back to the Reid Committee in 1965. He
said on Page 45, “…McCarthy Commission recommendations are as relevant today in
2018 as they were in 1970.”

The Minister himself blatted-on
for a time about the owner being the most important person in racing,
saying current prizemoney levels were unacceptable. The concept of doubling
prizemoney may have appealed then, but the Minister has since gone missing on
racing – how many race meetings did he attend in 2019, and passing on the
racing portfolio to his office and no longer being available for comment has
been to the detriment of this entire reform process.

No one seems to be talking about the goal anymore. It’s about the process only, which to date has only been a bit of tweaking here and there to sustain current prizemoney levels. No talk about partnering the TAB despite that non-legislation required process offering the single biggest financial windfall of all the Messara Review recommendations.

Could we have expected bureaucrats with no particular interest in racing to come up with legislation that was fit for purpose? The answer is a simple ‘NO’!

Could we have expected bureaucrats
with no particular interest in racing to come up with legislation that was fit
for purpose? The answer is a simple ‘NO’! It was never going to happen, and we may
all have guessed that outcome? From a good source, one particular bureaucrat
involved in the process has voiced his contempt for the Messara Review and also
described partnering/outsourcing the TAB as a ridiculous idea – that someone
has zero knowledge of the industry and its problems but carries more weight in
this process than anyone involved with racing knowledge. That’s the irony and
the downfall of the whole, damn tragic business.

Isn’t that the issue
causing all this discontent? The total disconnect between the authors of the
legislation and the racing industry itself – people with no conception of what
it will take to fix racing’s problems empowered with writing the rules for it? A
reliable source says RITA read the legislation for the first time only six days
before we got it and immediately identified 50 plus issues in the narrative. What
does that tell you?

Rumours abound the
Minister will make a racing reappearance at Trentham on Wellington Cup Day. If
you see him, then voice your concerns. This shoddy document isn’t legislation
until it passes through Select Committee and goes on to a third reading and is
again supported. Everyone in thoroughbred racing and the other two codes has a
small window of opportunity to help stop it or get it changed – make it count
and get your submissions in by February 11th.

Finally, be aware this
is racing’s final chance for a positive correction. Racing is under siege from
animal activists, anti-gambling lobbyists, left-wingers of every description, greedy
sports organisations, the greenies, vegans, government departments and
especially the DIA, a group called the Coalition for the protection of
Racehorses, and a plethora of other internet-driven groups equally endowed in

The protestants are
gathering their troops and the Empire needs to strike back. In the immortal
words of Obi Wan Kenobi, “May the force be with you, always.”

Shown below, some of
the poor racing-code serving DIA written legislation:

61 Regulations for amounts of distribution to


The Governor-General may, by Order in Council made on the
recommendation of the Minister, make regulations prescribing the method to be
used for determining the amounts that may be distributed by TAB NZ to the
racing codes from any surpluses referred to in section 69(2) or 74(2) or
any other source, whether capital or income.


For the purposes of subsection (1), the amount must
not be less than the total of the surpluses referred to in section 69(2) or
for that racing year less the total amount credited to reserves for
that year from those surpluses.

Compare: 2003 No 3 s 16

62 Distribution to codes

TAB NZ may, during or as soon as practicable after the end
of a racing year, pay to the racing codes the amount determined in accordance
with regulations made under section 61 to be distributed among the codes
for that year.

 (3) Unless a
majority of the racing codes otherwise agrees in writing, the amount referred
to in subsection (1) must be distributed among the racing codes in the same
proportions that the Board considers are the proportions to which the codes
contributed to the New Zealand turnover of the Board for that racing year.

(4) In subsection (3), New Zealand turnover of the Board
means the total gross amount received by the Board from racing betting placed
in New Zealand on races run in New Zealand.

81 Protection of intellectual property rights


TAB NZ has exclusive rights within New Zealand and
Australia to all intellectual property associated with all racing betting
information, racing betting system (or systems), and any audio or visual
content derived from a New Zealand race.


In subsection (1), intellectual property
means all patents, designs, copyright, know-how, trade secrets, trademarks,
service marks, and other intellectual or industrial property rights of any
kind, and any rights in relation to them whether enforceable by Act or rule of

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