In recent months we have been consulting with our employees, kindred bodies and other key stakeholders about a refresh of the Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) strategy.
We started by looking back at the outcomes achieved since the new Board was appointed in 2016 and the change in direction in early 2017:
- Record stakes and bonuses were paid out in 2017/18, and with the additional $6 million ($3 million per year) commitment from the State Government that commenced on January 1 2019 another record will be set in 2018/19
- 2017/18 gave us a five-year high for the number of races that were run
- Waived/reduced foal notification fees in 2018/19 and microchipped foals (with no direct costs to breeders)
- Increased cash flow certainty for participants with payment of prizemoney for races under $10,000 before the release of swabs and regular fortnightly stake runs
- Introduced the Industry Assistance Program for participants and club officials
- Increased coverage under the state-wide sulky fund.
- Introduced minimum bet rules (the first and still the only single code Australian harness jurisdiction to do so)
- Expanded shared services to cover 14 clubs
- Implemented a new club funding model that is more equitable for all clubs
- Record total turnover and average turnover per race in 2017/18
- Cost savings implemented
- Returned industry to profit after two years of losses
- Worked with RVL and GRV to secure industry funding from POCT
- Successfully hosted the 2018 Inter Dominion (the first time in Victoria in 10 years), which included free-to-air television coverage
- Launched 'the Trots' brand, updated HRV website and created Trots Vision
- Rehomed 360-plus horses
- Increased steward resources and focus on investigations
- Employed vets who undertook a record number of swabs
Despite all of that there are plenty of challenges ahead. Not the least being the continued decline of revenues from the Tabcorp JV (as detailed in the last edition of the Harness Racer), which are forecast to reduce HRV’s revenue from the JV by at least $1 million in 2019/20.
Our goal is a vibrant and growing harness racing industry that promotes participation, integrity and innovation with a focus on expanding revenue streams and maximises returns to stakeholders.
The refreshed strategy to achieve that is being finalised, however five key themes have emerged, with Integrity incorporated in everything we do:
BRAND & INNOVATION
BREEDERS & OWNERS
Within these five themes are vital initiatives such as the 2024 wagering re-licencing process, development of excess land at Melton, training and pathways for participants, breeding incentives, enhanced media strategy, growth of ownership and syndication, and an expansion of animal welfare programs.
Essential to the success of this refreshed strategy is our ability to fund it.
The current JV funding model won’t enable that, so we will need further government support to deliver important outcomes for our sport and in particular our people and their communities.
Essential for a large number of people in our sport is prizemoney.
The following table is compiled from Harness Racing Australia (HRA) records of prizemoney (not including incentives and bonuses) for the racing season from September 1 2017 to August 31 2018.
It reveals that Victoria pays out the second highest average prizemoney per race (only behind WA), noting that both NSW and WA have tri-code funding agreements that more heavily subsidise harness racing in those states compared to three-code split formula used in Victoria.
Prizemoney per race 2017-18
New South Wales $8376
South Australia $4236
Western Australia $11,672
HRV’s increase of prizemoney for restricted races in September 2018 to $4000 and then the subsequent additional $3 million in funding per annum from the Victorian Government for prizemoney increases starting January 1 2019 will combine to increase the average prizemoney per race in Victoria in 2018/19.
Rolling turnover trend
Since the introduction of a Point of Consumption Tax (POCT) on all wagering in Victoria on January 1 2019, HRV’s wagering turnover growth has declined compared to the prior year.
We have commenced monitoring to evaluate if the loss of revenue is being offset by HRV’s share of the POCT to ensure we are no worse off since the POCT’s introduction.
National Handicapping System
Significant progress is being made towards introduction of the new National Handicapping System.
While we anticipate a number of industry benefits from this, we also expect it will take some time for horses to reach their correct rating. Hence, we will be grateful for your patience while this essential transition occurs.
I’ll take this opportunity to thank the HRV team involved and the collaboration that has occurred with HRA, other states and kindred bodies in Victoria during this process.