New Zealand retail betting outlets close as racing suspended

25 March 2020

New Zealand Racing and the TAB have taken the decision to close all retail sites and temporarily suspend racing after the national government announced that it would move the country to Alert Level 4 of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) alert system later today (25 March).

New measures outlined by the government ban all indoor and outdoor public gatherings, while all non-essential businesses have been ordered to close amid the pandemic.

Betting will still be available on the TAB website during this period, but all retail locations will be closed. Racing will be suspended until at least 21 April, after an agreement was reached with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and Harness Racing New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Dean McKenzie, executive chair of the New Zealand Racing Industry Transitional Authority (RITA), has issued a new update to the country’s racing sector in regards to the current situation over Covid-19.

McKenzie said that with the suspension of domestic racing, in effect, the market has lost at least 75% of its content. This comes after RITA experienced a 27% drop in turnover following the cancellation of other sports events around the world.

This, McKenzie said, will continue to cause problems for RITA, but added that the organisation has taken a number of steps to help reduce the impact of cancelled and suspended events.

“While we continue to present whatever racing is available on Trackside (with a radio simulcast on Trackside Radio) and provide as much product as we can on TAB.co.nz, the reality is when we are not selling bets, we’re not generating any revenue, and therefore we are losing money every day,” McKenzie said.

“Our immediate focus at RITA has been to inject whatever content we can, such as offering esports for the first time and reducing our expenditure as much as possible.

“We’ve peeled back costs, put in a limited production on Trackside, suspended contracts where possible and we continue to look at every other aspect of our operations to identify cost savings.”

In terms of help for the racing industry, McKenzie recommended that those in the market read the dedicated government-run website to find out about the financial support available to the sector. Current initiatives include a wage subsidy scheme, leave and self-isolation support and business cash flow and tax measures.

“We need to deal with this change by quickly adapting, innovating, looking after each other and working together,” McKenzie said. “The racing codes and the TAB are working closely to do everything we can to keep the wheels of commerce turning for the industry and we all play a part in keeping our events going.

“We appreciate our industry will want a level of certainty as soon as possible, but that will take time, so please be patient as we work through this. We are working closely with the Codes and meeting on a daily basis to explore what steps we can collectively take in response to the impact of Covid-19.

“As an industry we have some mighty challenges ahead, that is for certain, but by working together we do give ourselves the best chance of coming out the other side.”

New Zealand is the latest country to suspend horse racing due to the outbreak of coronavirus. British racing was halted on 17 March and will not resume until the end of April at the earliest, while Ireland yesterday also stopped all sport, including racing, until further notice.