Now, rugby is still king in this country, but we have seen a huge change in the way that industry is run with professionalism at the senior levels, and the (hopefully) tongue in cheek request for taxpayer support for top players. The beer industry has of course had a massive change in the last 15 years from the swill to the explosion in craft beer brewers and labels. And of course we drink this beer at cafes and bars, rather than sports clubs.
So then there is racing.
Racing of course has had a few issues over the past few years, mainly that many New Zealanders don’t see this as a viable entertainment option any more. Sure there may be a flutter on the TAB for Melbourne Cup, and in Christchurch the heels go on and hems come up for Cup and Show week, but let’s face it… racing doesn’t have the same hold over New Zealanders as it used to.
We can see this with the recently released report into the racing industry. To quote from Minister of Racing (and Deputy Prime Minister) Winston Peters: “… the New Zealand racing industry is in a state of serious malaise, and requires urgent reform. The review also warns thoroughbred horse racing is at a tipping point of irreparable damage”.
I don’t think anyone disagrees with that view of the industry. But should they expect community help to do this?
Well, they do! Steve Kilgallon has had a look at this. The report suggests the lifting of a ban on the New Zealand Racing Board being allowed to own pubs with pokie machines. The Racing Board does operate pokies at 43 sites with a TAB - including their own TAB shops and some larger pubs with on-site TABs. Those pokies already generate about $15 million a year, of which 80 per cent already goes back to racing causes. According to Steve, in 2016, the NZRB returned $11.88m to racing, and only $3.06m to other sporting codes.
Now, you will probably know that I look at where grants go, and I have a wee database of Canterbury grants. In my last blog I noted that the quantum of money going to racing was fairly low, but had trebled in the past three years. In 2017, just over 1% of all gaming trust community money went into racing.
And the recipients of that money? Looks like, in Canterbury at least, that it’s largely going into harness racing.
Racing. It’s pretty hard to see community benefit in community funding of race clubs. Yes, they can be a fun day out, and the industry both employs and engages around 58,000 people but actually, should they not rely on their own self generated funds to support the industry? And if the industry is in decline, then perhaps, like many industries before and no doubt after, it’s time to pack up sticks and move on. Both previous events, and recent events suggest the industry has some challenges.
As a community we need to be vigilant in ensuring stuff that is done in our names actually makes our community a better place, and is not a subsidy for a sunset industry. Steve Kilgallon’s article quotes a pokie manager “"There's an obvious conflict of interest here ... they will take control of the donations that will otherwise go to the local community. Not-for-profit groups and charities should be outraged at this proposal." I think COMMUNITIES should be outraged by this proposal: we need to take control of the demand side of grants and start to question Not For Profit needs verses wants.
And, based on all the above, I would like to think that this recommendation is ignored. However, the Minister of Racing, who also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister, has a wee bit of power in this government. As communities we all need to ensure that our voices are heard. The demand for grant money from groups with supposed community benefits already outstrips supply: adding to that demand by say 5% (if we assume racing needs an additional $30m per annum nationally) would be a huge challenge for the ecosystem.
I write about this stuff as believe that as need to understand where funding comes from, where it goes, and how it gets there. Love to talk with you if you think this is at all interesting, and if you want to dive into the data a bit more then happy to do so. Check out my website www.delfi.co.nz.