RITA admits new product provision concerns in NZ racing bill

17 January 2020

New Zealand’s Racing Industry Transitional Authority (RITA) admitted concerns that the Racing Industry Bill does not offer enough flexibility for the roll-out of new betting products, but revealed that a bill regulating online betting may be in the works.

The transitional body, which will evolve into TAB NZ once the bill passes into law, said the proposed structure “is not yet where it needs to be”.

The launch of new products would be subject to an approval process, under the bill, with a number of considerations such as harm minimisation controls to be met before these could go live.

RITA said that it agreed with Harness Racing New Zealand’s (HRNZ) assessment that this could prove restrictive, and pledged to push for increased flexibility in the process.

It also acknowledged that there is no provision to establish a New Zealand equivalent to the Australian Interactive Gambling Act in the bill, to prohibit unlicensed offshore activity in the country, something also flagged by HRNZ.

However, RITA added, it had discussed the impact of offshore bookmakers on New Zealand’s legal betting industry with the Department of Internal Affairs. It revealed that any such act is being considered separately to the legislation to revamp racing, following the launch of the government’s Online Gambling Review, launched in August 2019.

On the subject of racing intellectual property, RITA looked to address HRNZ’s concerns about TAB NZ holding exclusive rights to all racing betting information, racing betting systems and any audio or visual content.

“From RITA’s perspective, it is essential that TAB NZ has uninhibited access and usage of racing IP in order to be able to monetise that IP effectively and thereby maximise its profits for the benefit of the three racing codes and the wider racing industry, as the legislation intends,” it explained. “In simple terms, for the benefit of the industry, TAB NZ needs to be able to use racing IP to function effectively as a wagering operator.”

In practice, this would not mean major changes for the racing codes, it added. RITA pledged not to look to restrict codes’ use of racing IP to promote the industry.

The bill will also require ministerial sign-off for any partnership agreements, which would see TAB NZ outsource operations of its betting, broadcasting or gaming functions to third party. While this was questioned by HRNZ, RITA said it was similar to arrangements in other territories, and would ensure the process remained robust.

Finally, RITA addressed the issue of the Racing Integrity Board (RIB), which will be established through the bill. HRNZ has argued there needs to be a separation of the duties of the Judicial Control Authority (JCA) and RIU, to ensure compliance and adjudicative functions are performed independently.

“The details of how that will be achieved is a matter for the RIB board and not one for legislation,” RITA said. “Further, the RIB members will be appointed by the Minister on nominations from codes and will be independent of the codes, which is an important feature of the new independent model and is a structure commonly found across a number of industries in New Zealand.”

The latest update comes after RITA has previously looked to ease concerns about a range of elements included in the Racing Industry Bill. It has previously tackled venue closures - which are likely - and the charge that the legislation does not guarantee new revenue for the industry - something it denies.

The bill is expected to come into force from 1 July 2020, following the implementation of the Racing Reform Act on the same date in 2019.