All bets could be off for TAB sale as powerful industry group quits

Daniel MercerThe West Australian
Former Perth Racing chairman Neil Pinner.
Camera IconFormer Perth Racing chairman Neil Pinner. Credit: Iain Gillespie

Plans by the McGowan Government to offload the TAB have been rocked after a group from the powerful thoroughbred racing industry quit in protest against the way the sale is being handled.

A letter obtained by The West Australian shows five of the thoroughbred racing industry’s six members resigned last week citing the Government’s “divisive” approach to the TAB’s sale.

The group, which included former Perth Racing chairman Neil Pinner, blamed what it said was the “complete erosion” of the thoroughbred industry’s involvement in the privatisation of the TAB.

According to the group, Racing and Wagering WA, which runs racing in the State, had shown no interest in “genuine engagement” with the committee over the sale or the industry’s broader direction.

“We feel that the operation and effectiveness of the thoroughbred racing committee in recent times has been completely eroded by the manner in which the committee has been chaired and engaged,” the group said in its letter to RWWA.

The departure comes amid attempts by the Government to sell the TAB to a private operator in a deal it hopes could raise up to half a billion dollars.

Although it is not a decision-making body, the TRC was set up by RWWA to provide feedback from the industry on matters including the privatisation process.

The resignations are the latest flashpoint in the relationship between the industry — which accounts for about 70 per cent of WA’s $820 million a year racing industry — and the Government.

In August last year, industry heavyweights including WA rich-lister Ron Sayers accused Racing Minister Paul Papalia of a fix-up over Ron Bransby’s appointment to RWWA’s board ahead of the sector’s preferred candidate.

Mr Papalia played down the significance of the resignations, saying the TRC did not report directly to him and the dispute was an industry matter.

He also suggested the TRC was redundant because the Government could get industry advice from other groups such as Perth Racing.

Nationals MLC Colin Holt said the TRC was meant to be a “united voice” for the thoroughbred industry and Mr Papalia’s explanation was not good enough.

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