Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett says privatising his State's TAB was one of the worst decisions he has made.
As debate rages about whether the Barnett Government should follow suit two decades after Mr Kennett became the first premier to sell a betting business, Mr Kennett said it was incumbent on governments to act in the interests of the racing industry.
"If, when we sold the Victorian TAB, we knew what was going to happen with corporate bookmaking, we wouldn't have done it," he said.
"We privatised it in the best int-erests of the racing industry but what happened is these foreigners have come in here knowing they have the most liberal laws to operate in any country and they are stealing TAB customers so they can dominate the market.
"They are not interested in racing, the horses or the welfare of the trainers and owners. They just see racing as a product, along with every other sport."
Mr Kennett argued corporate bookmakers did not have to fund the racing industry to the same degree as the formerly State-owned TABs.
He said he recently closed his betting account with a corporate bookmaker to open one with Tabcorp, the publicly listed company that owns the Victorian TAB.
Mr Kennett would not be drawn on whether WA should sell its TAB, but predicted the racing industry would decline within five years if corporates were not made to play on a level playing field.
Debate has raged within the industry about the merits of privatisation, with many trainers and owners worried that distributions, which have been growing in line with increased turnover on the WA TAB in recent years, will fall if it is sold.
Mr Barnett told Parliament yesterday the TAB faced more competition than ever and was losing market share.
Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron has said he will not support selling the TAB if the industry were worse off.