Tony Hart scratches his head in confusion coping with the split television coverage of racing brought about by the war between
Tony Hart scratches his head in confusion coping with the split television coverage of racing brought about by the war between

Racing war continues

By GREG WHITE

FOR more than a year the split screen television war has caused betting turnover to nosedive and seen frustration plague the New South Wales racing industry.

It seems every day there's an announcement a solution to the standoff is on the horizon.

But with just as much certainty, nothing changes, and local industry stakeholders feel that's how it will remain for the forseeable future.

"Don't expect me to give you any new information," Coffs Harbour TAB agent Bob Wicks said, "as we will probably be the last to know if a solution is worked out."

"All I know is what I read in the papers.

"They keep saying an end to the problem is just around the corner, but nothing happens."

Racing Club CEO Sherryn Tutt agrees with Wicks while adding it's the major reason race dates are being slashed across the bush, putting enormous pressure on club's to survive.

"Less money going into racing means less return to the clubs," she said.

"Some can carry the burden longer than others but none of us can carry it forever, without something starting to give."

Falling revenues may be one thing but as Wicks points out, it's the frustration of bouncing around between a 'Sydney' screen and a 'Melbourne' screen that's sending blood pressure towards boiling point.

"Too right the punters and TAB agents are pissed off," the noted straight - shooter said.

"When we had one screen, all the information kept rolling over and you always knew where you were up to.

"Now I find people are missing their race because they're standing in front of the wrong screen."

Wicks revealed a general drop in revenue of 4% across NSW stretching to 10-15% for some forms of betting.

"But that's only the figures we've been given," he said.

"I believe the drop is bigger than that.

"Everyone knows figures can be manipulated at management level to show things aren't as bad as we find them at the grassroots."

With a court case involving opposing parties Austar, TVN and Sky Channel not due to begin until May, Wicks believes a compromise should be struck in the interim.

"Restore things as they were until the court case is settled," he suggests.

"On the surface, it may look like a dispute disadvantaging a small group of country punters.

"In reality, it's causing major damage to an entire industry."

To further cloud the issue, Coffs Harbour Racing Club look certain to suffer from one of the side effects of the protracted battle.

With last Monday's TAB meeting a washout, CEO Tutt isn't confident another race date will be offered as replacement.

"The trend is towards cutting back," she said.

"It's unlikely in the current climate we'll be rescheduling a meeting to make up for the loss on the wet day whereas once, a new date was reasonably easy to obtain."

Just one more by - product of a situation that has the backbone of the racing industry grinding their teeth in frustration.



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