WA racing leaders have predicted a "scary" future for their industry over the potential sale of the TAB by the State Government.
As the industry prepares to hold an emergency meeting over the issue at Belmont Park today, legendary WA horseman Fred Kersley reflected the growing mood of his racing peers by expressing concern for a move they fear will run their financial lifeblood dry.
Kersley, who ignited the State's racing industry in the early 2000s with his turf superstar Northerly, said the disastrous results of TAB privatisation in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland were worrying.
"I have fears for the future of racing if that happens," he said.
"It takes the control away from racing and you'll be just waiting on handouts from the private company. It's a scary thing being talked about and it's a huge worry for the industry."
Racing and Wagering WA yesterday confirmed revenue growth of 6.8 per cent for the past nine months and a profit boost of nearly 6 per cent. Since RWWA's inception in 2003, its annual distribution to the industry has more than doubled to a record $126.1 million this year, with a further $4 million to go to the Department of Sport and Recreation and $14 million in grants committed for infrastructure projects.
The State Government will get $43 million in tax from a betting turnover of $2.15 billion and the Federal Government will get $28 million in GST revenue.
WA's three racing codes - thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds - will this year get an extra $6.5 million.
WA Racing Trainers Association president Michael Grant said the increased distribution and turnover was proof the current model under RWWA was working for an industry that directly employed nearly 34,000 people. "In anyone's language, it's a good business and it's guaranteed," Mr Grant said.
"If the Government is going to look at selling the TAB, we need to be a part of the process and get assurances that the level of distribution would be guaranteed.
"Unless they can guarantee it, all they are doing, based on previous sales in other States, is guaranteeing the demise of the WA racing industry."
Leading WA racehorse owner Bob Peters said he wanted more information, but had initial concerns. "My thoughts are that is not a good idea, that we're running quite well as we are and we should stay as we are," he said.
Though Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan have indicated a level of willingness to sell by placing the TAB on their list of assets to be further investigated, opinion is divided in Cabinet. During a parliamentary Budget estimates hearing yesterday, Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron said that while no decision had been made, he did not believe the sale would be in the best interests of the WA racing industry.
Dr Nahan has acknowledged that finding a sustainable funding solution for the industry was a necessary condition of any sale, but he and Mr Barnett have both made noises about whether it was "appropriate" for the Government to continue to own a betting business.
Mr Barnett said last night that the Government recognised the economic benefits of the TAB and its important relationship with the local racing industry. "We will be very mindful of these considerations when reviewing the available options," he said.