Let’s use Wentworth Park as a bargaining tool

Wentworth Park

IN a lengthy but heavily-researched and detailed article, Kevin Pitstock recently outlined a fairly bleak financial future for greyhound racing in NSW, foreshadowing what could easily be a shortfall of $24 million a year.

Much of the new cost structures, which will be imposed on the industry, appear to be top-heavy with bureaucracy, which is no surprise whenever public servants and governments get involved in almost anything.

The bottom line does not look good for the future well-being of the industry in NSW, at least as far it remaining a viable economic activity or business for some participants.

As we rapidly approach the 90th anniversary of the first race held in Australia behind the mechanical lure, it’s worth remembering greyhound racing has always faced an uphill struggle but always we have had resourceful people capable of overcoming the hurdles placed before them.

When Harold Park closed in 1987 there were plenty of doom and gloom merchants suggesting this would lead to the demise of greyhound racing in much of the Hunter Valley district, where one-turn tracks like Cessnock and Maitland would wither on the vine as breeders looked to produce greyhounds capable of handling the tighter Wentworth Park circuit. Of course this didn’t happen and three decades later the Hunter region still produces plenty of good quality racing stock.

Many also lamented the conversion of Wentworth Park from grass to sand in the early 1990s. While I have always agreed with former GBOTA Secretary Ted Thompson that watching racing on grass is aesthetically pleasing, the simple realities of track maintenance meant sand was the best option for the track surface.

So, now we face a truly monumental financial burden and it is going to take some clever use of resources to overcome the shortfalls.

I have previously suggested that we should seriously consider dispensing with Wentworth Park and maybe turn Richmond, for example, into the new ‘city’ track for Sydney.

There was a widely-held belief that part of the reason the former NSW premier Mike Baird wanted to ban greyhound racing was the opportunity to allow developers to get their hands on Wentworth Park. There’s no doubt the site is worth an absolute fortune. I am not aware of the regulatory situation with regard to its use by greyhound racing, but it may well be possible for a hefty sum to be negotiated for the industry to relinquish its hold on the location. That amount could, possibly, be enough to cover the expected shortfall in overall funds for the next decade, or beyond.

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It would reduce the number of tracks by only one, but even that represents a long-term saving. With Sydney’s population now beyond five million people, and with roadworks an almost constant constraint on long-distance travel, I would have thought moving the ‘city’ class track to a location closer to the demographic which supplies the product would be sensible.

While a huge number of participants are clearly involved in the industry for its social interaction, greyhound racing remains a major player on the overall gambling landscape. Indeed, there are some figures which suggest the greyhounds are attracting far more younger gamblers than the other two racing codes.

It’s almost inevitable that a few tracks will need to close, but which ones really needs some very careful thought. Equally, prize money levels are going to be impacted, but surely the first targets of cuts should be at the top end of the scale. If the Golden Easter Egg was reduced to $200,000 first prize money will that really stop the best of the best coming to compete? I doubt it.

For those who simply enjoy the participation in the sport, the loss of a nearby track could have a major social impact. As I have written previously, take any meeting almost anywhere at any time and you’ll find the majority of greyhounds do not pay their way.

Of 87 greyhounds engaged at a Bathurst meeting last September, the average age was 32 months and they averaged just $3,103 in prize money each, or the equivalent of just under $97 a month since birth. Those figures gave the lie to the claims of mass slaughter for non-performers and simply confirmed that so many people are involved in the sport for the love of it.

Maintaining that core interest across the state means we need to look beyond the confines of the ‘city’, and if a long-term viable future can be negotiated by way of dispensing with Wentworth Park, then surely it should be seriously considered. Right now our only city circuit represents a significant bargaining tool.

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  1. Kevin the sad part about Wentworth Park is we don't own it and the GBOTA is only a tenant there, the only bargaining tool is relocating racing as you say to Richmond and the only bargaining tool the GBOTA have is the race dates at Wenty nothing else sorry to say and what are they worth.You only have to look what they offered to kick start the Industry" peanuts " this Government don't give two Hoots with what happens to the Greyhounds and now they are are looking to bring in a consumption Tax on wagering to help fund us with this top heavy bureaucracy they have created ,nothing else !

  2. The problem with the wish list of the Alliance - this POCT (point of consumption tax) is that is ignores the fact all bookmakers already pay race fields which goes to the industry. A POCT shifts the recipient of money from the industry back to the government, who we already know preferentially distribute it away from greyhounds.

    A POCT made sense while overseas operators were still interested on betting on Australian racing, but our Federal govt just made that illegal to protect Tabcorp.

    So we're stuck with the revenue we have, albeit the race fields will now head back to the govt as corps will not allow themselves to be double dipped from race fields and POCT.

    The industry should take what it can from the govt now - we already know they want Wentworth park to complete the Blackwattle Bay redevelopment. The trick will be making sure the industry get the money not the GBOTA, but from what I'm told GRNSW own the lease there now not GBOTA anyway.

  3. My mail is the Gbota have the races dates and the lease till 2027 the question that must be ask will Grnsw compensate the Gbota in some form if there is a move out of Wenty. Grnsw issue the race dates every two years to Wenty and other Tab tracks its every 12 months so if Grnsw want to, they can allocate them race dates to another track providing they meet the charter.under the Act they can move racing to where every they like, its happening now and its happen before, or just ask Cessnock they lost their race dates ,no compensation , a court challenge won the first round , lost the second round and a 250 thousand dollar legal bill! which killed racing there. The real loser in the whole exercise was the Greyhound Industry once again as you say the trick will be making sure the industry gets its money and if form is a indication with Coalition and Labor we will get Peanuts. I sat in the room with these politicians who promised 20% of the Tax Harmonization we got 10% What is needed is the right people on the board and a CEO who has expertise at all levels of the racing codes and the old guard given the boot look at the mess they got us into .

  4. If anything ends up with the GBOTA it will be a disaster,.

    They still haven't reported the spending from the Alliance donations.

    And still haven't reported to their members what they've done with the money from the sale of the Lidcombe property.

  5. Whilst we do not own the track a leasehold on a piece of land that valuable is still a very valuable commercial commodity that you could bargain with.
    In London when the Council wanted the greyhound track to build a football oval they negotiated with the greyhound community and built them a state of the art track on the outskirts of London and compensated them financially. Driving through the city is difficult and given there would be few greyhound farms or properties in the CBD I think it is worth considering - the problem is you would need some hard and clued up people to bargain.

  6. What about the deal of the Centenary the GBOTA made when they paid the NCA over a Million for their race dates at Wenty then a couple months later the NCA fell over ! If they had waited they could have picked them for nothing and those who said it was a great deal are still calling the shots at the GBOTA,maybe they'll be next to fall over ?. Don't you just Love transparency ? LOL