A court case has delayed much-needed funds for the racing industry.
A court case has delayed much-needed funds for the racing industry. Bruce Thomas

Rough deal for racing club

GRANTING Betfair and Sportsbet leave to appeal to the High Court in the long-running racing fields legislation case has left Coffs Harbour Racing Club CEO Russ Atkinson frustrated and disappointed.

“Their appeals have again put the release of much-needed funds to all industry participants on the backburner,” he said.

“This comes at a time when the biggest immediate threat to country racing is the need to increase the level of prize money returned to the various stakeholders.

“Hopefully the appeal will be heard in June with a possible final outcome known in July or August.

“Releasing funds to increase prize money and improve facilities at racing clubs is a key element of the industry’s strategic plan going forward and without that injection, there will be enormous strain.

“Clubs, trainers and owners are suffering from a horrid run of bad weather and poor turnover and everyone had hoped that the Federal Court’s three-nil finding in the initial appeal would carry the day.

“But again, it’s a case of wait and see.”

It now costs $55-60 per day to prepare a horse in the bush and Atkinson believes that figure is merely break even level.

“Some blokes may cut overheads to the bone and train for less than that amount but they all need financial returns.

“Plus it stimulates interest in the owners to continue tipping in.”

Country bookmakers also find their positions remain in limbo.

The original judgement decreed that from July 1, 2010, they pay a 1.5 per cent levy to RacingNSW on top of the 0.33 per cent fee for fielding on local events and 0.5 per cent for interstate events.

However bookies reached agreement with several clubs (including Coffs Harbour) to vary the amounts and frequency of payments and the longer the appeals process drags on, the more pressure exerted on the satchel swingers.

“This is not a large revenue stream for most clubs but until the matter is sorted, it will continue to put enormous strain on some bookmakers remaining viable,” the CEO said.

Atkinson is also looking toward tomorrow’s State poll where both main parties have promised an immediate $5 million injection into the industry if elected.

“I guess they were committed to offering something as a sweetener, although it would be fair to say they are both merely paying lip service,” he added.

“But none of us will knock back the money ... every little bit helps.

“The sooner these financial questions are cleared up, the better it will be for all concerned.”

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