Racing industry participants will have to wait to find out how the unaccounted for share of today's $72.5million Government relief package trickles down to them.

Because the man in charge of racing admits he doesn't know yet.

Minister for Racing Winston Peters played racing's white knight again today with his pre-Budget announcement of the relief package, broken into three sections.

The Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA, formerly known as the TAB) will get $50million, another $20 million already promised in the past will go to developing two synthetic thoroughbred tracks in Christchurch and Palmerston North while $2.5million will go toward the Department of Internal Affairs working on changing online gambling rules, potentially even stopping New Zealanders from betting with any offshore betting operators.


The impotance of the latter will initially be overlooked by many in the racing industry but could have the greatest long-term economic impact as New Zealand racing and sport was losing over $400million annually to off-shore betting operators the last time an accurate audit was done.

If Kiwi punters are barred from betting with overseas operators it is hoped much of the money will instead be bet through the NZ TAB but major offshore bookies spoken to by the Herald yesterday had conflicting ideas on whether they would be shut out or not.

Implementing such a change could be a lengthy process, especially as New Zealand already has agreements around betting on NZ racing and sport with many overseas betting operators.

What will happen faster is RITA using $26 million of its $50 million grant to pay its bills and remain trading but that still leaves them with $24 million, which RITA executive chair Dean McKenzie is not yet sure how it will be distributed.

"I can't give the industry an answer on that yet because this is all new to us too," says McKenzie.

"We, like a lot of people in the industry, are thrilled about the Government support but we haven't had a chance to talk to the Minister to get further guidance or among ourselves as to exactly how that money will be used."

Peters said the $24million is for RITA and the three racing codes to maintain baseline functionality and resume racing again.

But what he didn't say was how that money be distributed, whether RITA will keep some to help their business while bulk funding the three codes or even targeting specific clubs who are seen as strategically important.


There is no point RITA having a healthier balance sheet if there is nobody to hold the races so at least some clubs might need money to re-start their business after many have lay dormant for at least two months.

But owners, trainers, jockeys are drivers are going to want to see money injected into stakes, something McKenzie wouldn't be drawn on.

What is certain is racing in New Zealand will re-start and RITA are out of the woods for now. But the work has yet to begin on re-engaging punters, keeping owners and trainers in the industry and the country, encouraging crucial breeding numbers and ensuring racing is still even remotely a factor in the lives of those outside the industry.

A long road lies ahead but Peters has given the racing industry the jumpstart to get moving.