GRNSW last week announced a number of substantial changes to the 2013/14 NSW TAB meeting schedule and, before that, announced a reduction in non TAB dates for 2013/14. In the following interview, NSW GBOTA Chairman, Geoff Rose, looks at the impact on his Association and the industry generally.

NSW GBOTA Chairman, Geoff Rose, answers the race date questions

Recent race date announcements, as they will apply in 2013/14 will have considerable impact on the NSW GBOTA. What’s the overall view?

From a TAB date perspective, we are very pleased with the return of Bulli dates to the traditional Wednesday night slot. Testing entry level TAB C racing at Wentworth Park is also a good outcome but against this, is the ongoing contraction of opportunities in the non TAB sector with across the board reductions. The challenge is to get that balance right.

Regarding Bulli, do you think Wednesday nights will make a significant difference?

Bulli is one of NSW greyhound racing’s most important venues. The track is one of the best one turn tracks in Australia. It services southern trainers and metropolitan trainers. The venue is deserving of a better time slot than Monday nights and I am sure the Wednesday night position will realise trading and wagering improvements across the Board.

Harness racing has now vacated the Bulli venue, how does this effect operations and what about the lease arrangements with the Wollongong Council?

Firstly, the vacation of harness racing should be seen as a super opportunity. The facilities are in good shape and we now have the chance to work with GRNSW in having the venue assessed for development as a greyhound only dedicated facility. There is room for a slipping track, parking services for trainers cars be improved, the trackside viewing facilities can be improved substantially at low expense. Wollongong Council want greyhound racing at the venue for the long term under head or controlling lease arrangements. The support of Council is very definite.

Wentworth Park will now race on Monday nights on 27 occasions during 2013/14. How will TAB C racing at Wentworth Park be received in your opinion?

Time will tell of course. But we do have a responsibility to work the Wentworth Park brand aggressively and that means more racing. We think a sufficient number of participants will support the TAB C meetings. They will allow trainers the opportunity to introduce their greyhounds to Wentworth Park under less competitive terms. Although programming is yet to be fully finalised, I think there will be considerable interest in Monday heats into Friday finals at both 520m and 720m level.

What about 280m racing, will that find a place at the Wentworth Park Monday night Meetings?

The Board of Directors is yet to fully discuss that option but will in the lead up to 2013/14. Friday and Saturday night meetings will remain dedicated to 520m and 720m racing but with the Mondays pitched at TAB C performers, then there is an argument to at least consider it.

And maiden racing?

There is no reason why the TAB C meetings won’t have maiden events. In fact, I think participants would demand it.

You mentioned the Wentworth Park brand needing to be exploited, are you concerned that TAB C racing might have a negative impact on the powerful Wentworth Park brand?

The interstate experience supports the fact that different meetings can be staged at the same venue with the lesser meetings detracting from the profile of the premium meetings.

How will the Monday meetings be presented at Wentworth Park?

They will be low key. We are budgeting very conservatively and we will operate with basic bar and catering facilities. It’s about entry level racing at the major racetrack.

The Wentworth Park meetings have only materialised as a result of the NSW GBOTA’s willingness to cease normal TAB C racing at Appin 2013/14. What is the situation at Appin?

Non TAB race meetings at Appin have not been financially viable for some time. Quite simply, non TAB racing is only viable these days where high levels of voluntary input apply. Appin however, has operated with TAB wage costs against non TAB income. Appin has benefited from high levels of non race day income but the meetings themselves will have a far superior bottom line at Wentworth Park.

Was there ever any thought to Appin converting to TAB like Helensville in Victoria?

That option has been open to GRNSW for many years. Clearly GRNSW’s non TAB to TAB conversion strategies have other tracks and regions rated above Appin.

Will Appin continue to operate as a trial track?

Directors are committed to maintaining Appin as a trial track and recognise the important conditioning role it currently plays.

There has also been a commitment to self fund some racing at the Appin track during 2013/14. How well this materialise?

Directors will consider the viability of providing a level of self funded racing at Appin. GRNSW has advised that no prizemoney limits will apply should the NSW GBOTA determine to conduct self funded meetings. Of course the success or lack of success for this initiative will pull back to whether sufficient voluntary support can be generated. The Friends of Appin Way have been mighty supporters in recent years but the voluntary support will need to go up a cog if viable self funded racing is to be staged with some regularity.

Appin has provided an outlet for greyhounds that were only able to handle the straight. It will be sad to see this go.

Most greyhound racing at Appin also race elsewhere. Of the greyhounds which raced at Appin last Saturday 92% of them had raced elsewhere. Appin is used by many to educate youngsters and to condition racers. There will be some that either excel at straight racing or are suited only to it. Hopefully the trialling and self funded meetings at Appin plus the low grade opportunities that will be available at Wentworth Park will fill most of the gaps. In addition, there are a lot of greyhounds that share racing between Bulli and Appin. Bulli should only grow stronger from its Wednesday night base and this can only help the bigger greyhounds suited by long stretches.

Will the Appin decision and the success or otherwise of the Wentworth Park TAB C meetings be reviewed?

GRNSW has agreed to review the results in conjunction with the NSW GBOTA. This review will take place at an appropriate time in 2013/14 with a view to committing more fully to the future.

The NSW GBOTA has stated in its Annual Report for some years that it would like to convert as much of its non TAB product to TAB. This remains a key objective?

No organisation has supported the non TAB to TAB expansion more than the NSW GBOTA. Tracks like Lismore for many years conducted TAB meetings with non TAB funding. The NSW GBOTA call for TAB racing in the west was before and stronger than the call from any other body. Initiatives like the Bathurst and Orange consolidation, our efforts to drive TAB at Dubbo and our ongoing efforts in the south west and north west are other examples. The reality is that licensees are driven today more by the prospect of financial viability than simple participation. I come from an era when non TAB racing ruled. There is still a place for it but non TAB racing must be complemented by a strong state wide TAB network.

Gunnedah and Temora continue to provide only non TAB dates and along with all other non TAB clubs, they have had their race dates reduced next year. What are the NSW GBOTA plans for these venues?

Firstly we think there are strong reasons in each case to oppose the race date reduction and we are in the process of responding to GRNSW in that regard. As to the future, the north west is in desperate need of TAB racing. Gunnedah is well positioned to provide that outlet and we will continue to propose Gunnedah as a logical option for TAB racing in the region. With regard to Temora, it remains a track of potential. Like Gunnedah, it is industry owned with strong nomination demand. I believe it does and will continue to make a vital contribution to racing in the south west.