Bosses not yet sold on Betfair - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

TASMANIAN racing industry leaders were not convinced by Premier Paul Lennons Betfair sales pitch yesterday.

Mr Lennon met the chairman and vice-chairman of the three codes at his offices in Launceston.

He gave assurances he would consult widely with the industry and would make no decision on licensing the UK betting exchange before September.

While the Tasmanian Thoroughbred Racing Council representatives were delighted with this result, their concerns about Betfairs impacts on the financial position and integrity of the industry remain.

Mr Lennon told them the percentage of Betfair profit that would flow to the industry, but they have asked for dollar figures. It is believed Betfair has offered 20 per cent of gross profit.

But this represents a very small percentage of total turnover, possibly as little as 0.1 per cent, because the organisation takes only a small commission of between 2.5 and 5 per cent on winning bets.

Betfair will also pay a licence fee.

TTRC chairman Geoff Harper said: "Well go away and take the percentages weve got and find out from our colleagues interstate what the current turnover of Betfair is. Working on that turnover, well be able to work out the benefits to the Tasmanian racing industry."

TTRC vice-chairman Rod Thirkell-Johnston went one step farther and asked for an independent financial analysis.

But Mr Thirkell-Johnston said Mr Lennon "seemed to be reluctant" to agree to that request.

Mr Thirkell-Johnston was also not convinced by Mr Lennons response to the impact of Betfair on the integrity of racing, which he believes can be overcome with legislation.

"I need a lot more assurances he has covered the integrity side of it," he said.

Mr Thirkell-Johnston said Mr Lennon clearly believed licensing Betfair was the best way of addressing Tasmanian racings financial restraints.

This is despite the fact that interstate wagering giant Tabcorp has agreed to significantly reduce the annual fee of more than $5 million it charges TOTE Tasmania to be part of the interstate betting pool.

The fee has stifled TOTEs ability to increase its funding of the industry. The reduction, understood to be more than 50 per cent, is dependent on Tasmania not licensing Betfair.

But Mr Thirkell-Johnston said Mr Lennon was dismissive of Tabcorps offer.

"His attitude seemed to be that it should have been done years ago, and it was a bit late to do that now," Mr Thirkell-Johnston said.

Mr Lennon, who has been involved in negotiations with Betfair and Kerry Packers Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd since at least April, said: "I have said all along that we would only do it if it was good for the Tasmanian racing industry."

"The earliest the Parliament would consider such a licence, should we decide to proceed, would be in September."

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