LEADING Sydney trainer Anthony Azzopardi is outraged at a proposal by the NSW Government to rob the greyhound racing industry of up to $12 million per year.
The legislation, put to Parliament during the week, addresses the NSW TAB’s distribution of funds across the three racing codes following the State Government’s announcement in July that it would be reducing the taxation rate on state run wagering.
Presently, the NSW Government applies a taxation rate of $3.22 for every $100 of TAB turnover, with the new model set to reduce this to just $1.28, bringing it in line with other states, including Victoria.
With Victoria on this lower rate, they have enjoyed a $100 million per year funding advantage over NSW, with the distribution of these funds being decided on commercial performance.
Despite the expectation funds would be divided in the same way in NSW, the new legislation is proposing the thoroughbred code receive 77.3 per cent, harness 12.7 per cent and greyhounds 10 per cent.
With greyhound racing currently contributing 22.3 per cent to the total TAB turnover per annum, Azzopardi says the industry is being dealt a great injustice.
“If there is any sense in this situation, there is no way the government (can justify) just giving (the greyhounds) 10 per cent,” Azzopardi told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“It makes you wonder if their whole intention is to close down NSW greyhound racing? Thats what it looks like to me.
“It is disgraceful, I cannot believe how they can make a decision like that, I just cannot believe it.
“For the dogs to give the TAB so much in turnover and to be getting so little back is completely unfair, it is ridiculous… the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer – that’s how I read it.”
With NSW greyhound racing already considerably lagging behind Victoria, Azzopardi said the proposed distribution will deprive the already struggling industry from recovering and growing.
“Everyone says that Melbourne has the best tracks – they have the best tracks because they have got the funds… I think GRNSW are trying – but if you have no money, you have no money.
“This leaves the future of greyhound racing in NSW looking bleak because that money could have fixed up tracks and make the improvements needed to bring us up level with Victoria.”
Azzopardi, who has taken out three Group races this year including last month’s Group 1 Vic Peters Classic, said it will be a massive blow for many breeders and owners and as a result he can foresee a mass exodus of participants and dogs from the sport in the state.
“I think the way its going a lot of people will be shifting (interstate), but a lot of people won’t want to move to Victoria or Queensland, so they are probably just going to quit – if that happens I don’t think greyhound racing in NSW will have a future at all,” he said.
“A lot of people spend a lot of money on the industry and you look at people like Marty Hallinan, Greg Board and Dennis Barnes – they have set up properties on 100 acres – they have devoted their whole lives to the sport and now to only give them 10 per cent, it is a slap in the face.
“I hope someone wakes up to themselves and realises what 10 per cent will do to the sport – if things keep going the way they are there won’t be a Golden Easter Egg, there won’t be a Vic Peters – there will be none of that, so what are you going to do if you are a breeder? You will be sending your good dogs to Victoria straight away.
“NSW can’t afford that, they can’t afford to lose the trainers and the dogs, but when you are forced to go you have got to.”
Azzopardi said the direction of the sport in NSW is the reason why he has chosen to move south, with construction work currently being undertaken on a property just outside of Melbourne where he will be relocating to.
“The reason I have chosen to move to Victoria is to ensure that I have a future in greyhound racing,” he said.
“The last thing I want to do is move away from home, but we have been forced to.
“I have a lot of breeders behind me and if I didn’t make the decision to move to Victoria then I would probably lose a lot of my clients – and I couldn’t let that happen – we work too hard and a lot of other people are in the same boat.”
Azzopardi says the now is the time for participants to band together to show they do not support the proposal, which is effectively another nail in the sport’s coffin.
“All us owners, trainers and breeders have got to stick together because if we don’t stand together as one, we will lose out,” he said.
“If we can all stick together in trying to fight it then we may get somewhere, but we need to do it quick, because as far as I am concerned, 10 per cent is not going to get you much and if it is the case the future is not looking very bright.”
Successful Central Coast breeder, owner and trainer Noelene Holloway supported Azzopardi’s beliefs that the industry is being duped and went on to say that it is time for someone in a position of power to stand up and fight for its cause.
“I believe they are using the live baiting scandal to really come down on us and put us in a bad light,” Holloway said.
“This is just them putting the boot in and railroading us and what defence do we have? I don’t see anyone in a higher position who is fighting for the cause of the greyhound racing industry.
“I haven’t seen anyone defend us against these allegations thrown at us – such as when reports came out to say we put 17,000 dogs down a year – which is a lie.
“No one is coming out to say that greyhound trainers are doing a great job by pumping over $300 million into the economy a year and that the vast majority of greyhound trainers are good, hardworking and honest people who love their dogs.
“We need someone who has the guts to get in there and fight for us, because the people who are currently in control of us, are not supporting us.”