QUEENSLAND was potentially the big winner from the Tabcorp and Tatts merger announcement last week.

The approval was absolutely vital for the future viability of the racing industry in this State.

It is now vital that the financial windfall of many millions of dollars be distributed equitably – and wisely – virtues that Racing Queensland and the Queensland Government are hardly renowned for.

Just hours after the announcement, RQ CEO Eliot Forbes emailed that RQ was now assessing submissions for up to four new or replacement harness and greyhounds tracks for the south east corner.

Can you believe that?

Forbes said more than 40 submissions have been received during the Expressions of Interest period.

And on the very same day Forbes announced a $3.2 million prizemoney increase for the three codes. Great – but no-one is celebrating outside the protected south-east corner. It’s just another snub for the country.

The provincials Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Ipswich will go to $16,000 a race for all classes (excluding Maidens).

An additional Saturday restricted race of $30,000 will be added to all metropolitan Saturday meetings.

Then this: “The current program of country race meetings and prize money levels will be maintained for country and regional racing.”

That, of course, includes Rockhampton, Townsville and Mackay TAB meetings. No extra prize moey and not a murmur of rebates for horses that travel hundreds of kilometers to compete every week.

No doubt better news will follow when the dust settles – but until there is a new regime at headquarters no-one is getting too excited.




RACING Victoria took an expensive punt by fighting the Tabcorp and Tatts merger, and lost, wrote Patrick Bartley for Fairfax Media on Saturday.


And the self-imposed damage to RV may not be restricted to a badly bruised ego. 

“They sided with corporate bookmakers in opposing the merger and it is going to be costly. 

“Silks don't come cheap, and there were plenty of them in the Australian Competition Tribunal for 14 days of hearings”, Bartley wrote.

It could be said RV bit the arm (Tabcorp) that feeds them. Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson gave his evidence at the Tribunal behind closed doors because of ‘extra highly confidential’ documents.

You might well ask - why?

It was a very public matter involving many thousands of people and many millions of dollars. What then was so precious? Why the secrecy?

Rumours abound.

One distinct fact emerging from the hearing was the intimate, some might say curious relationship Racing Victoria has with the corporate bookmakers.

Former RV CEO Rob Hines provided a submission on behalf of Irish-owned Sportsbet, which he now consults to. One-time executive Paul Bittar, in attendance at the Tribunal also works for Sportsbet and former RV director Andrew Twaits provided an expert submission for CrownBet.

According to the Fairfax report “They wanted a number of conditions attached to the merger but didn't get a single one.

“The hearing also pitted Victoria against every other racing industry in the country, including jockeys and trainers. They all wanted the merger, which promises an extra $50 million to racing each year.

“Corporate bookmakers are a big part of the Victorian racing landscape. But, unlike the TAB, they return much less to racing and do not pay any wagering tax in Victoria.

“But while betting on Victorian racing is surging, RV’s returns from wagering actually went backwards last year.

“The growing problem is that when betting dollars leave the TAB to a corporate bookmaker, racing is substantially worse off. And more worrying is that questions are being asked about RV actually encouraging it.

“For every dollar a punter spends with the TAB, Victorian racing gets a fair chunk.

“But if the punter bets with a corporate bookmaker then the industry only gets a return on bets on Victorian racing – and it's a fraction of what it would get if they'd bet with the TAB,” the Fairfax report added.

Surely Government has enough evidence from this hearing to justify a hefty turnover tax on the corporates to snare some of the millions leaving the country. A tax on turnover is the most effective revenue raiser on bookies, particularly the off-course operators who are having a virtual picnic in this country and treating our punters with sheer contempt.

Imagine the overall turnover when just one corporate can declare $200 million profit in one year. It’s mind boggling.

If Government doesn’t need the money we are missing out on (we are only $500 billion in the red!) then the racing industry certainly does.

And quite frankly racing doesn’t need nor want the corporates.

Why not on course bookies only and a national tote?



RACING needs competent people in control and sadly that seems to be lacking in Queensland on many fronts, particularly administration and integrity. And a separation of the codes is also a must.

BY the way, did you witness the Alan Jones interview on SKY last week? His opinion on how bad racing in Queensland is administered – from the Premier down is, well, pretty spot on.

“It is a basket case,” Jones said. And few would argue.

The idea of placing the three codes under one umbrella was one of the ‘Bentley Blunders’ and should be changed. Racing should not have to piggy back trots and greyhounds.

They should be master of their own destiny and the futility of the present arrangement is clear when a young cadet steward claims she was told by the senior QRIC stipendiary Steward that she could not be promoted to a senior steward in Townsville because she had no harness racing experience.

Of course there isn’t a trots track in North Queensland any longer. In fact there are only three left in the State – Recliffe, Albion Park and Marburg (more a picnic venue).

That same cadet steward by the way is no longer.

She in fact resigned last month after being told she must show cause. QRIC chief Ross Barnett claims she entered false information on a chain of custody document for a swab take from a horse.

That sounds pretty serious but, in fairness, Jess Portch the steward concerned is entitled to her version.

“I was chairman of stewards at Gordonvale and as pre-arranged, I stayed overnight at Mission Beach and the swabs taken at the meeting were delivered back to the RQ office at Cluden by the starter Peter Warren.

“On Monday (my RDO) I called into the office to ensure everything was OK with the swabs and delivered my completed paper work.

“It was then I made the mistake of signing the form that said I had personally delivered both the swabs and paperwork.

 “I don’t know why – but I signed the paper. I shouldn’t have. It was just one of those things and I thought nothing about it.

“Two QRIC staff flew from Brisbane to interview me and I was told I couldn’t have any representation.

“I was on my own – nervous and worried sick. I just couldn’t believe the reaction.

“Then on the morning of the interview I was told I could have legal representation but it was then too late.

“I then asked for an adjournment but it was denied.

“My lawyer told me I would win an unfair dismissal case hands down – but he also said: Do you want to go back?

“I said I would resign”.

Overwhelmed and encouraged by the response from licensees all over NQ, Ms Portch says it may not be over yet.

Workplace and sexual harassment action is being considered.

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