Hawke's Bay owners, trainers and breeders say the industry may become extinct within a decade while waiting for the New Zealand Racing Board to act on pulling it out of the doldrums.
Trainer John Bary told an NZBR "informal meeting" in Hastings today owners were heading to Australia to race because the stakes money was "embarrassing" in New Zealand.
"We're worrying about putting things right in 15 years but we may not have an industry here well before that," Bary told NZRB chief executive John Allen and his associates, Gary Woodham and Ian Long, who are part of a campaign to seek feedback from stake holders, leading to Westport, Christchurch, Wingatui, Auckland and Hamilton.
Those at the meeting, appreciative of Allen fronting up to clarify issues, heard $40.8 million had been spent on the Fixed Odds Betting platform launched on January 7 although the NZRB had encountered "some teething problems" in the first week.
Allen said while the uptake on the platform was slower than they had anticipated some traditional punters had returned.
However, Bary said his family couldn't afford to pay their staff penal rates to work over the Christmas holidays.
"My poor staff are on minimum wage and I'm on less so you're dealing with passion and that's what grates with us when you see the expenditure — which is, you know, for the want of a better word wastage — while we're struggling," he said.
He suggested the NZRB divide its expenditure rather than trying to pay for everything in one hit.
Hawke's Bay Racing Club chief executive Andrew Castles lauded NZRB for its support for the marquee Tarzino Trophy during the annual spring carnival and the robust drive to raise money for the Cancer Society but bemoaned the absence of extra funding to the club for the fifth year in a row.
Allen assured them it wasn't simply " a toss of the coin", as someone had suggested, but a lot rested on what the Government intended to do and implementing the Messara Report.
Owner/breeder Mike Sanders said the most disturbing aspect of the customer growth was that over a space of a few months it had run into a bearish market.
"It's nowhere near what it was at the beginning of January when the site changed," Sanders said.
However, Woodham assured the meeting the platform had done well through March Madness and April to predict what those punters would do, minus the aberration in November when the Melbourne Cup kicked in.
"With the anti-money laundering we have to know who you are to come have a bet with us," he said.
Sanders was in touch with someone at a bank who informed him people would be staggered to learn "how much goes on".
Champion owner/breeder Murray Anderson said stake holders were on big capital investments and a finite time in which to race horses.
"They're clearly on a hiding to nothing here so they have no option but to ship them to Australia," Anderson said.
The meeting heard the NZRB advertisements were "stupid". Allen agreed but stressed they were intended for a different market audience than what the industry was accustomed to although professional consultancy was required.
Woodham said the Australian Government was investing in different states but it wasn't a luxury the industry enjoyed here.
"We've got tens of millions of dollars spent offshore with bookies," he said. "Every dollar that goes there goes into the back pocket of a bookie via England or Australia and not to the codes in New Zealand.
"So if you want to carry on spending your money offshore with bookies then you're hurting your own business," he said.
Grant Boys, who wears numerous hats, said the problem was "a regulated industry in a deregulated environment" in competing for the wagering dollar.
"All we're getting is a Band Aid to patch us up and there she goes," Boys said.