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NSW Court Confusion 8: Call For Fed Govt Control
Under the headline "Before Racing Industry Strangles Itself", straight-shooting columnist Patrick Smith declared in The Australian this morning: "Time now for the federal government to take control of racing. It is a sport that long ago gave up any pretensions to have an overall concern, never mind vision, for what is both a $1 each-way pastime & a billion-dollar industry." Smith continued: "The Federal Court decision reached yesterday on various challenges to Racing NSW's race-field fees sees everybody claiming victory while all are more than a little bloodied. Nobody has been mortally wounded, but some need blood transfusions & others a stitch here & there." Justice Nye Perram "ruled that racing could charge a product fee on operators that bet on its fields. . . . . . With that established, it was essential that racing find a formula which would be fair to all operators who wish to conduct business on race fields. That is something that Racing NSW failed to do, with the court finding that the governing body had acted in a discriminatory manner to corporate bookmakers & betting exchange Betfair to protect Tabcorp from the harsh realities of competition. To that end, observers believe NSW racing might need to return as much as $50 million that has been collected under its invalid legislation. Last night, racing officials said they were examining ways NSW could protect repaying the fees. The court ruling exposes the arrogance of the NSW racing power brokers, who last month unveiled a grand strategic plan for the state's racing before the court had made its judgment. It is difficult to think of a racing body made to look more stupid. From taking over the world, it must now scrimp & save to pay the power bill." Smith then boomed: "The ruling points to the recent & incessant chant of Peter V'landys (Racing NSW chief executive) that all the industry ever wanted was a level playing field for everyone as nonsense. The court ruling has laid that falsehood bare. It found that while Racing NSW charged Tabcorp 1.5% of turnover, it ultimately refunded the operator that money following an agreement struck in 1997. V'landys has said that his organisation would consider its position & whether it would appeal against the decision. Betfair, too, is pondering its next step. If this issue goes back into court, then racing once more will be standing still while other sports lay siege to the betting dollar. More court hearings would render the sport dysfunctional." Smith summed up: "The way forward is screamingly obvious. The industry needs to sit around & thrash out a deal that best suits everybody. Not just some body or some one. It must involve all parties or at least represent them. From the punters, to betting exchanges, to bookmakers & to the TABs. . . . . . The Australian Racing Board was established to broadly watch over the industry, but it has proved anaemic as self-interest drained it of any real power. If racing can't sort out this problem brought by yesterday's ruling, then the federal government must step in & establish an independent body to run racing. Someone must show leadership, someone must take control; otherwise racing will forever be the sport with its own hands around its throat."