If you’re going to wager, wager on the horses.
That was Racing and Gaming Minister Colin Holt’s appeal to gamblers in Western Australia amid reports that the government is preparing to put up the country’s last state-owned betting agency up for sale.
In an interview with abc.net.au, the minister said punters should return to racetrack wagering because “sports betting doesn’t contribute to the racing industry like wagering on the races does.”
The Western Australia racing codes tabled a proposal last month that would potentially see TAB, the last government-owned betting agency in Australia, going private after Holt decided that it was time to test the market’s appetite for the assets, which has 320 retail outlets.
The TAB’s suitors include gaming giants Tatts Group and Tabcorp, which have reportedly already held talks with the government over the potential $1 billion deal; Seven West Media, which entered a joint venture with Racing Victoria last year; and billionaire Kerry Stokes.
However, Holt said he would not back a sale that would not benefit Western Australia, even if the money would be spent to address the mounting state debt, which is already heading towards the $40 billion mark.
A separate The Sunday Times report quoted the Nationals minister, who said: “The state government will not proceed with a sale of the WA TAB unless there are clear benefits for the future of the racing industry in WA. My first responsibility is to the racing industry.”
Despite Holt’s assurances, the talks of privation have already sent chills down the spine of country racing clubs, which are fearing that TAB’s sale could see the horseracing industry lose its most reliable revenue stream.
Esperance Bay Turf Club president Ken Norton told abc.net.au that if a sale pushes through, “the money does go to a private operator and the corporate sector, country racing clubs are the first to suffer.”