Last Friday week at Penrith Panthers Leagues Club, the commencement of the inquiry into Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) began with the with committee members questioning key industry leaders on a range of subject issues, based on the sports current operations and future viability in New South Wales.
The inquiry began with CEO of GRNSW Brent Hogan, forced to answer a plethora of questions regarding GRNSW current and future operations.
Unfortunately Hogan expressed a bleak outlook for the long-term future of GRNSW.
‘New South Wales greyhound racing industry is not viable in the short to medium term and certainly not sustainable in the longer term. This is the collective view of the five bodies included in the joint industry submission’.
Hogan was then questioned about the Inter-Code Agreement, which was signed and locked into a 99-year deal amongst the three racing codes; Racing NSW, Harness Racing NSW and Greyhound Racing NSW. Greyhound Racing NSW was only to receive 13%, despite generating a market share of 20% as stated by Dr Collins.
‘That is not a fair deal in anyone’s language. As a result, the greyhound industry has foregone $154 million since the privatisation of the TAB and, at present, is leaking $15 million a year to subsidise the other two codes of racing’.
‘The five bodies that put the industry submission together have collectively formed the view that if the current funding model is maintained going forward, then within the next five to ten years, it is highly likely that up to half of those tracks will close because, financially, they will not be sustainable from the industry’s viewpoint.’
‘We are asking for when we do that is for Harness Racing New South Wales to forgo $8 million to $9 million worth of revenue a year and the same with Racing New South Wales. Their answer obviously is “No, go away. It is a 99-year agreement, locked in stone.’
With the obvious battle of re-negotiating the share percentages amongst the other two codes, Hogan illustrated the Government’s failure to action a much- needed overhaul to the Inter-Code Agreement.
‘The Government needed to stand ready to intervene and if necessary by legislation ensure that those arrangements moved to a fair and equitable basis for distribution – the government chose not to action this recommendation.’
As a result of GRNSW financial strain, track closures became a large topic of discussion, with the long future of all 34 NSW tracks, under a dark cloud of uncertainty.
‘For the upcoming two year period all tracks will be maintained’
‘In the five- to 10-year window what we are saying is that the financial position of the industry is such that we will not be able to sustain the 34 tracks that we have around the State’
Dr Ted Humphries, who appeared on the highly controversial 7.30 report on ABC, which slandered Greyhound Racing in NSW in particular its drug practices, presented some controversial claims regarding swabbing procedures and whether big trainers are given ‘favourable treatment’.
‘I have certainly witnessed that, and I think the reason is that they provide so many dogs for the actual racing that if they were given a lengthy suspension then there would be fewer dogs to race and there would be difficulty in making up the numbers for some races at times.’
‘Targeted swapping leaves a lot to the discretion of the individual steward on duty. I have seen plenty of evidence that they target based on individuals and people rather than the performance of the animal’.
‘Smaller trainers get harsher penalties’ said Humphries.
EPO has become one of the hot topics, with regards to its usage and availability from suppliers. Dr Humphries elaborated on his dealings with controversial substance.
‘People ask me for it. I have never dispensed it. There is plenty available on the black market’
‘There are certain trainers whose dogs will improve dramatically when they go into a kennel.’
‘There will be a short-lived period of racing when their dog just then goes out for a spell.’
‘The same trainers will have a number of competitors week after week and then all of a sudden they will win four or five of the races on a particular program’
Humphries placed a great emphasis on the swabbing procedure, which has become a largely critiqued area in the entire process from collecting the swab on race night, to the results being published on ‘the dogs’ website.
‘Greyhound Racing NSW publishes the negative swabs every month but they never publish anything about the positive swabs for that month, which would give participants and people like me more confidence that they are accurately reflecting the situation’
‘If it is done immediately before the race then the swab is most likely going to test negative—unless some time elapses’
‘I said that cocaine was commonly used as a stimulant in greyhound racing and that it could be administered just shortly before the race by a sneaky injection or by wiping the mucous membranes of the greyhound with cocaine powder.’
‘You can be out taking a swab and the trainer will say, “I have just given this dog cocaine. It won’t show up, will it? It has only been 40 minutes”.’
Dr Robert Zammit, a veterinary surgeon, also added to Humphries claims by stating:
‘I can almost cut them in half as to the ones that are genuine and those that are not’
‘There are the others who just seem to have a very high turnover’
‘What happens to the dogs when they are finished? That is the worry. With this high turnover where does the dog go, where does it end up?’
Undoubtably the biggest reaction from the public forum came when former GBOTA Chairman Bill Mangafas made an address regarding the Inter-Code Agreement. Mangafas response in relation to the ICA was ’13.2% was based on the evidence of what we produced over the past 8 years, which is about 2% more than what we deserve.’
All the public speakers spoke with passion and enthusiasm about their love of greyhound racing and how they simply want the administrative side of the sport to function like clockwork, allowing participants to focus on dogs and racing only.
A second hearing was scheduled to be held at Wallsend in Newcastle on November 25, however due to parliamentary constraints; this has been deferred to February next year.