Court rules on racing row

CONFUSION still reigns over the full ramifications of Justice Nye Perram’s Federal Court ruling yesterday regarding the contentious race fields legislation case.

Justice Perram ruled in favour of corporate bookmaker Sportsbet’s claim that the 1.5 per cent turnover fee sought by Racing NSW for the use of racing fields was discriminatory but dismissed betting exchange Betfair’s application on the same issue.

He also found an arrangement between Racing NSW and wagering giant Tabcorp to be flawed in that the fee paid was ultimately refunded to Tabcorp.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’Landys said the commercial arrangement with Tabcorp, which operates the off-course totalizator in NSW, dated back to 1997.

“The legislation is valid,” V’Landys said. “The judge has found we do have the right to charge but he’s found we shouldn’t have done a deal with TAB.

“We have to go back to TAB – the contract has stipulations on us including an arbitration method.”

V’Landys said the next step was to study the judgment at length before a decision on an appeal was made.

Racing NSW was ordered by Justice Perram to refund Sportsbet more than $2 million.

However, V’Landys and Racing

NSW chairman Alan Brown believe the ruling vindicates the race fields legislation, which has been deemed valid.

“We are delighted with a number of findings,” Brown said. “The court has found as far Betfair is concerned, Racing NSW has been successful on all counts.

“It’s a mixed day for racing, mixed in having to give back some of the fees but enormous relief that there is certainty, that the legislation fee is valid, as is the regulation.”

The sticking point in the Sportsbet case was that Racing NSW does not charge on-course bookmakers the fee until they reach a turnover threshold of $5 million. Justice Perram agreed with Sportsbet the effect was that almost no NSW bookmaker paid the fee and the threshold discriminated against interstate bookmakers, many of which operate from Darwin.

Andrew Twaits, from Betfair, said the issues could be resolved through discussion.

“It’s slightly confusing,” he said.

“We seem to have had a win on all the fundamental points we were arguing in terms of why the 1.5 per cent turnover fee was discriminatory but obviously we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. We’ve got 21 days to consider whether we appeal.

“Hopefully we can sit down with the leaders of the industry here in NSW in the meantime and come to some sort of an arrangement. It’s all a bit raw but hopefully we can do that with the aid of a facilitator.”

Revenue from the race fields legislation was expected to net Racing NSW $35 million annually.

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