Government passes bill to sell Western Australia TAB

9 September 2019

The Western Australian Government has passed a bill paving the way for the sale of the state’s TAB, the last publicly publicly owned business of its kind in the country. 

Subject to Royal Assent, the TAB (Disposal) Bill 2019 will enable the Government to commence a competitive sale process, with the aim of selling off the business in 2020.

The bill sets out plans for 35% of the net proceeds from the sale to be credited to the Racing Infrastructure Fund in Western Australia, with the remaining 65% to be spent on a new women’s and maternity hospital in the state.

The Western Australian Government has not stated how much it expects to raise from the sale of the TAB business or when the funds will be distributed.

Meanwhile, the bill also sets out a number of amendments to the Betting Control Act 1954, whereby a new licensing regime will be introduced in the state in place of the existing TAB system. However, only one licence would be in action at any time.

This solitary wagering licence would permit the holder to conduct totalisator and fixed-odds betting on races, events and simulated races. The licence would run for a maximum of 40 years, with the option of a two-year extension.

Although the bill states that the licence may include an upfront and/or ongoing fee, it does not clarify how much the holder would have to pay.

However, it does make clear that the holder of the wagering licence must have in place certain arrangements with Racing Western Australia (RWA), the new name for Racing and Wagering Western Australia. These arrangements should include the provision of funding and other obligations relating to the racing industry.

Meanwhile, the RWA will no longer hold any wagering functions, as set out by the amended Racing and Wagering Western Australia Act 2003. The RWA has operated the TAB since this Act came into effect in 2003.

In relation to this, the Gaming and Wagering Commission would no longer have the function to supervise gambling operations of the RWA - as it will no longer be operating wagering - but it will have the power to regulate the wagering licensee.

Such powers will include administering fines to the licensee, recommending that the Government take action against the licensee if it deems necessary, as well as licence key employees at the operator.

In addition, the racing bets levy that had been administered by the Gaming and Wagering Commission will now be abolished and replaced with a new race field publication, with its use approval regime to be administered by RWA. This will come into effect once RWA is no longer a wagering operator and does not have a conflict of interest collecting wagering data from other operators.

The RWA has welcomed the approval of the bill, saying that the move will bring to an end years of uncertainty in the state.

“The passing of the bill means there is now the appropriate legislative framework to negotiate the sale of the TAB and support the Western Australian racing industry, ending years of uncertainty,” the RWA said in a statement.

“Since 2003, RWA has operated the TAB with the goal of maximising returns to the racing industry, the transaction phase aims to continue this commitment by selecting a suitably qualified and capable wagering operator through an open market process.”