Coronavirus Daily Wrap: Roles slashed at TAB

6 min read

Compiled by Paul Vettise

The New Zealand Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) confirmed to its staff on Tuesday it would commence consultation about changes to the TAB in response to the impact of COVID-19.

The proposal includes a reduction of approximately 30 per cent of roles across all areas of the organisation and is in addition to other cost saving measures aimed at reducing total expenditure.

The detail of the proposal, which will be presented to staff on Monday, and if progressed, would see the business becoming leaner, more efficient and with increased commercial and customer focus.

Already a number of contractors have been laid off but remaining salaried staff have been informed there are more than 160 roles (and a further 70 contractors) to be cut across the board, with voluntary redundancies offered.

Dean McKenzie

RITA Executive Chair, Dean McKenzie, said the scale of change presented to staff was required to ensure the business was sustainable for the future and best placed to meet the needs of New Zealand racing and sport.

“The TAB has taken a major hit from COVID-19 with revenue last month 47 per cent below forecast and customer numbers down more than 35 per cent,” McKenzie said.

“The TAB has taken a major hit from COVID-19 with revenue last month 47 per cent below forecast and customer numbers down more than 35 per cent.” - Dean McKenzie

“Despite far reaching efforts to reduce costs across the TAB, including salary reductions, staff taking leave and reducing all non-essential expenses, it simply was not enough to offset the blow COVID-19 has had, and will have, on our industry.

“The implication of the pandemic extends beyond the immediate impact to the TAB, with racing and sport looking very unpredictable over the next year.

“The reality is the TAB will need to be a leaner, more efficient business with fewer roles, and focused on driving our core wagering and gaming business.

With New Zealand racing halted the TAB has taken a major hit

“Our focus now is to discuss this proposal with our people and to listen to their feedback before a final decision is made in late May.”

COVID-19 has provided the impetus for swift change, however, the wagering operator and broadcaster was already under pressure to create efficiencies prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

RITA was appointed by Racing Minister Winston Peters on July 1 last year to enable the urgent changes required to drive the racing industry toward a financially sustainable future.

Latest from the USA

Preakness in October

Courtesy of TDN America

The 145th GI Preakness S. could be held October 3, per a report by NBC affiliate WBAL TV. “The TV time is booked, and the 145th Preakness S. will be held on October 3 on NBC,” the report read.

The GI Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled for September 5, while a date for the GI Belmont S. has yet to be announced. The Preakness S., originally scheduled for May 16, was postponed by the Maryland governor amid the coronavirus outbreak in March. It was also announced last month that the Preakness InfieldFest has been canceled for 2020 and would return next year.

Preakness | Image courtesy of Horsephotos

“The Stronach Group/Maryland Jockey Club is aware that a potential date for Preakness 145 has been announced,” a statement from The Stronach Group read. “At this point, there is no definitive date set and we continue to explore options. Once a date for Preakness 145 has been finalised, an official announcement will be made.”

Going live

Golden Gate Fields will resume live racing on Thursday, May 14, after receiving provisional approval Wednesday morning from the Alameda County Public Health Officer. Live racing was temporarily suspended on April 2, following an order from Alameda County in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Golden Gate Fields | Image courtesy of Vassar Photography

Live racing will be conducted under strict protocols and without spectators, to protect the health, safety and welfare of every person and every horse in the Golden Gate Fields community.

The protocols are still being finalised with county officials and will be released in the coming days, as will the racing condition book. At this time, there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at Golden Gate Fields.

June re-start

The 2020 Thoroughbred racing season at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, which was originally scheduled to begin Saturday, May 2, will commence Saturday, June 6.

An emergency meeting of the Louisiana State Racing Commission took place this week and unanimous approval for the revised opening date was granted.

Louisiana Downs | Image courtesy of Hodges Photography

Due to state mandates regarding COVID-19, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs concluded its 2020 Quarter Horse meet Monday, March 16, two days ahead of the scheduled final date. Thoroughbreds have been training there since Monday, April 13 when a judge ruling allowed horsemen to be permitted on the grounds.

Latest from the UK

Bumper Classic day

Courtesy of TDN Europe

Epsom officials are exploring the feasibility and practicality of conducting a one-day Derby meeting behind closed doors.

Jockey Club Racecourses, the track's owner, has submitted an application to Epsom and Ewell Borough Council to hold the Derby and Oaks on the same day in either July or August, along with restricting access to the site.

A provisional date of July 4 has been put forward, but the application also asks for flexibility, with a Saturday in July or August mentioned as no date has yet been set for a resumption of racing after the coronavirus shutdown.

Anthony Van Dyck (Ire)

While the course is owned by Epsom, there are public footpaths and bridle-ways and the application asks for access to certain areas to be restricted for 24 hours in order to meet the requirements for a behind-closed-doors meeting.

Temporary fencing and barriers along with additional security would form an exclusion zone, with JCR also outlining its ongoing dialogue with local police.

They have proposed five other races to be run in addition to the Derby and Oaks. The application is due to be discussed at a council meeting on Tuesday.