Dean McKenzie to take interim executive role with NZ’s RITA

9 December 2019

The chairman of New Zealand’s Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) Dean McKenzie will take on the role of executive director once current chief executive John Allen steps down at the end of 2019.

McKenzie will serve in the role until June 2020, meaning he will be in place as the New Zealand government shepherds the Racing Industry Bill into law, after which RITA will evolve into TAB NZ.

This, RITA said, would ensure the transitional body “maintains the momentum of significant urgent reform required to revitalise racing, while providing continuity and stability in the management of the day to day activities of the TAB”.

It would be an extension of the responsibilities McKenzie had taken on when he was appointed chair in July this year, RITA added. McKenzie will be supported by RITA chief operating officer Stephen Henry, who will take on additional operational responsibilities until the end of June next year.

It comes after Allen announced in September that he would leave his role at the end of the year following five years as chief executive of the TAB, then RITA.

In the meantime, RITA will advertise for the role of a new chief executive to take TAB NZ forward from 1 July 2020, the date from which the Racing Industry Bill is due to be enacted. This is part of a two-step process, with the first piece of legislation - launched in April this year - allowing for the New Zealand Racing Board to be replaced by RITA.

The second piece will herald a range of changes designed to safeguard the long-term future of racing in New Zealand, with TAB NZ to have the power to charge offshore operators for offering odds on racing and sporting events held in the country.

In addition, operators taking bets from New Zealanders will be subject to a point of consumption tax, though controversially, will not be able to apply for licences.

McKenzie, who has held a number of roles in sports and racing governance, will not be a candidate for the permanent position of TAB NZ chief executive.

Last month, RITA fell short of its targets for the financial year ended 31 July 2019, after revenue declined 3.1% year-on-year to NZD$348.0m (£123.6m/€144.2m/$158.7m). However, later that month McKenzie revealed that turnover, gross betting margin and customers numbers were all ahead of budget in the year-to-date period beginning August 1.