Racing chiefs to fight TAB sale

WA racing chiefs are preparing a pre-emptive strike against any plans to privatise the TAB, claiming financial figures prove the utility should remain the long-term lifeblood of the State's three codes.

Racing and Wagering WA chief executive Richard Burt said a submission outlining the TAB's growing financial clout would be sent within two months to the Barnett Government's asset sales task force.

The submission will include figures for the past six months that reveal TAB revenue growth of 6.6 per cent and a profit boost of more than 8 per cent.

Since the RWWA's inception in 2003, its annual distribution back to the industry has more than doubled to what is expected to be $120 million this year, with a further $4 million to go to the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Mr Burt said the figure had risen 16 per cent in the past four years because of the successful operation of the TAB and expected to announce increases in stakemoney in April. "If you look at RWWA as the operator of the TAB versus other States, we're the best in Australia," he said.

He pointed out privatisation of TABs in other Australian States had been problematic at best and disastrous for some.

Premier Colin Barnett has said that as far back as 2003 he considered selling the TAB. He would not comment yesterday.

Mr Burt said selling the TAB would leave the Government financially exposed.

"The problem with the privatisation of your TAB, as apart from other assets, is that you can't go back," he said.

"The reason the Government will sell the TAB will be not the lack of performance out of RWWA or the TAB. It will be purely a financial need."

RWWA chairman Jeff Ovens said the body was considering 20-year projections on scenarios that covered the TAB being privatised.

A RWWA-commissioned 2010-11 report on the economic and social impact of the racing industry in WA found there were 33,686 people - the equivalent of one in 54 adult residents - who participated in the State's industry.

The report also revealed that the State Government received $34 million in wagering tax revenue.

Mr Burt said this figure would rise to $42 million this year with a further $23 million to be paid to the Federal Government in GST.

TAB turnover was $1 billion in 2003-04 and will grow to $2.1 billion this season.

RWWA will also soon increase the number of "paperless" TABs, such as those tested in West Perth, Kwinana and Currambine, after positive feedback from punters.

Technology that enables punters to select multiple bets on mobile phones, then scan them in at an agency is also close to being implemented.

'The reason the Government will sell the TAB … will be purely a financial need.'" RWWA chief *Richard Burt *

The West Australian

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