DESPITE what you may have heard, greyhound racing in NSW has a future with integrity and welfare at its core.
It just needs a fair go and the right plan in place.
That plan has now been drawn up.
AustralianRacingGreyhound.com.au has presented the New South Wales Labor Party with a comprehensive industry model, which guarantees the sustainability of the sport moving forward.
The decision to shut down the industry followed the report from the Special Commission of Inquiry tabled by Justice Michael McHugh. The same report is currently embroiled in a Supreme Court controversy, with many of the figures used to condemn the industry being called into question.
With a small glimmer of hope moving forward, Kevin Pitstock, the CEO of Racemedia, the parent company of AustralianRacingGreyhound.com.au, said it is vital for the industry to show it’s sustainable as it fights for the ban to be overturned.
“A lot of the argument from the Baird and Grant Government has been centred around the concept that greyhound racing is unsustainable and that welfare reforms are un-fundable,” Pitstock said.
“That prompted us to do some further investigation and come up with our own model, which we believe is quite revolutionary as far as the racing industry is concerned, particularly in regards to our concept of a welfare future fund.
“Our proposal allows for 728 meetings per year, allowing greater racing opportunities for greyhounds in comparison to the proposal of 593 meetings per year as put forward by the Joint Working Group.
“The modelling is based on the assumption that recommendation 64 of the McHugh report is adopted and that greyhound racing receive 22 per cent of turnover.
“Based on the figures we have provided, it proves that with our fair share of TAB revenue, greyhound racing is sustainable.”
Getting more dogs to the track and prolonging careers is another challenge facing the industry moving forward, with the ARG model allowing for a minimum of 3,000 pups whelped each year, 80 per cent of which are expected to make the track, with 7280 races accounted for per annum– working out as 14 meetings per week across the state.
Introducing the Greyhound Welfare Future Fund
The standout point of the model is the establishment of a Welfare Future Fund, which would ensure that every greyhound which is born into the industry is given the opportunity to live a full life.
“The key part of the equation is the establishment of the welfare future fund, which means that every greyhound which goes to the track effectively contributes to the welfare of all greyhounds born, retired and re-homed,” Pitstock said.
The fund could potentially feature a $20 rebate per week for each retired greyhound – encouraging owners to keep their dogs. The rebate would also rewarding anyone in the community taking on a greyhound through adoption programs.
Greyhounds are well-known for making placid, lazy and beautifully-natured family pets,
The expanded figures surrounding the planned fund excited Pitstock.
“Our figures indicate that it would contribute $12 million in year one towards animal welfare and we foresee that in five years it could potentially be up around $50-60 million and it would ultimately self-fund,” he said.
“Based on the preliminary figures we are looking at around $4,000 per greyhound to put towards their future welfare and care after they finish racing.
“There is no disputing that there needs to be a much more significant push towards improving animal welfare and the industry itself needs to remain in control of the welfare and care of these greyhounds.
“The fund would be exclusive of prize money – it is something that would be contributed directly from GRNSW into the future fund every time a greyhound starts.
“It’s not something that comes out of prize money or appearance money – the participant themselves will not be losing out.”
Pitstock explained the concept of the Future Fund would be to ensure there is appropriate finance to assist with a greyhound’s retirement once their career is complete.
“The future fund is an investment which can be used to draw down upon for the future welfare, care and needs of all greyhounds,” he said.
“The money is not there to plunder or for people to fund their own lifestyle – it is there for the greyhounds.
“It would fund the adoption programs and it would allow for the purchase of properties where large numbers of greyhounds could be cared for on a bigger scale than what is currently happening.
“This concept accounts for every greyhound born – not just the ones who make the track.
“It is important that the industry offers full life care for every greyhound born and under this model that would be achievable.”
The revolutionary concept would be in addition to increased regulatory functions to ensure the integrity of the sport is maintained at an all-time high.
“There are some substantial increases in finance which are to be put towards integrity,” Pitstock said.
“GRNSW from their 2014/2015 annual return stated they had an expense of approximately $1,900 for stewarding and integrity matters per meeting.
“This model allows for the allocation of $3,300 per meeting and that is exclusive of swabbing which needs to be increased.
“By improving our swabbing rates up to approximately three swabs per race it brings us in line with Racing NSW who in 2014/2015 swabbed 2.8 times per race.”
Pitstock said that there were also significant ways to reduce costs in relation to club structure which should also be addressed if the industry is given the chance to reform.
“There are significant cost savings under the sector of Club Administration by centralising the employment and oversight of the clubs themselves to GRNSW.
“Under the model GRNSW would employ club staff themselves, allowing for greater oversight and the control of spend.
“The figures also don’t include the revenue that the local tracks themselves raise through private sponsorship, trialling or special events and that would be an additional stream of revenue which hasn’t been accounted for.”
Pitstock is also of the belief an independent body separate to the commercial functions of GRNSW should be established, such as the Labor Party’s proposal for a Greyhound Racing Integrity Commission.
He was highly critical of the current and former governance at GRNSW, stating that sweeping changes need to occur – all of which are allowed for within the model.
“The priorities within GRNSW are skewed – we are led to believe their current legal expenses for the financial year is running at $1.2 million,” he said.
“Why does a body like this need to spend that much on legal?
“They are also operating an investigation and integrity department which is not operating in unison with stewards.
“I think the Greyhound Racing Integrity Commission is a good idea but I also think there is some merit in having an Integrity Commission, which oversees things related to stewards and integrity, which is for all three codes combined.”
Participants would also be catered for under the model, which would elevate prize money – a move which would in turn have a positive effect on welfare.
“In 2014/2015 the average participant was returning $339 per starter – which is dwarfed in comparison to Racing NSW with its participants returned around $3,596 on average per starter.
“Under our new model we would pay a flat rate appearance money of $25 per dog and participant returns per starter on average would increase to $439.
“It’s a win for all aspects of the industry – welfare is taken care of, prize money is increased and we are paying for more stewards, veterinarians and swabs – this structure would see the industry move forward in a big way.”