Tabcorp in talks to handle New Zealand TAB’s fixed-odds betting business

tabcorp-new-zealand-tab-fixed-odds-bettingAustralian betting operator Tabcorp is holding talks with the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) over the future of the NZ TAB’s fixed-odds betting business.

On Monday, NZRB spokesperson Kate Gourdie confirmed that the state-owned betting agency was in talks with Tabcorp and two other unnamed companies about “automating” the NZ TAB’s fixed-odds division.

Earlier this year, the NZRB warned that its costs were rising at a rate that was “not sustainable” due to Kiwi punters opting to wager online with internationally licensed betting operators that offered better odds and a wider variety of betting options. The NZRB suggested “outsourcing or partnering” some aspects of its operations might be more cost-effective.

Gourdie declined to offer specifics regarding the possible role of Tabcorp or the other two contenders in running the TAB’s business. Gourdie said it was “far too early for us to discuss potential solutions when we don’t know what the final option will be.”

The Australian Financial Review reported that Tabcorp was looking to position itself as a trusted partner in case the New Zealand government opted to sell off the TAB.

However, Gourdie emphasized that the government was not pursuing privatization and said plans were afoot to buttress the TAB’s position as a “statutory betting monopoly,” including an online point-of-consumption tax on those pesky international sites (that most observers believe will be impossible to enforce).

Meanwhile, the NZRB announced last week that it would be halting the TAB’s telephone wagering operations as of August 1, a move that NZRB CEO John Allen said would save the company “millions of dollars.”

The TAB said the change was necessary because the Phonebet business had declined from a peak of 30m calls per year in 2001 to just 2.5m calls last year. Only 3% of the TAB’s new customers make use of the Phonebet service.

Bettors will still have access to phone betting via the automated Touchtone service, which allows them to place wagers, check results and hear odds, but only punters with medical issues that prevent them from using Touchtone or the TAB’s website will be able to wager via a live human phone operator.

Some 43 live human operators will be out of a job after the NZRB closes its Christchurch Phonebet site. The company plans to maintain a much smaller phone operation in Wellington to handle the medically exempt calls.