The TAB is not planning to shut its retail stores even though it plans to phase out betting operators on track.

The days of handing over your cash on track to a betting operator and getting a ticket in return are almost certainly gone at all but the biggest meetings as the racing industry undergoes dramatic changes and enormous cost-cutting.

Codes and clubs have been told the TAB proposes to remove manned betting terminals from racetracks and replace them will electronic betting terminals, which still produce a paper ticket but work similarly, and require similar effort, to a cashflow machine at your bank.

The proposal would see no betting staff and less cash being used on track, which the TAB say will also cut down on security costs, the transporting of manned machines to meetings, and staff.


Some racetrack punters, particularly more hardened or regular punters, bet via apps and websites on their phones and will be unfazed because the migration away from betting operators started long ago.

But for many once-a-year racegoers or those who are less tech-savvy, no operator-assisted punting will be an uncomfortable or even off-putting experience.

The proposal is part of the TAB's (known as the Racing Industry Transition Agency) change plan in a week where it was granted $72.5 million by the Government to restart the industry and pay debts.

But if it is adopted there will still be a provision for the TAB to bring back betting operators or find another similar solution for racing's biggest carnival days, where once-a-year punters may struggle with electronic betting.

If that doesn't mean hands-on betting operators, it could mean EBTs having human assistants to help punters place bets.

As radical as the loss of betting operators from racetracks sound, it won't be an issue in coming months when race meetings won't have crowds, and the crowds are so small for most mid-week meetings that the expense of betting operators may be hard to justify.

But the TAB needs to be careful to not alienate particularly older, regular punters - who while they may not bet big, they may bet often, and are a driver of not only turnover but interest in the industry.

Some of the TAB's current decisions are being based around keeping their VIP big-spending punters (the 2 per cent of punters responsible for around 50 per cent of turnover) happy, and this decision won't affect them. But the TAB needs to be aware to not concentrate on them at the expense of more casual punters, because the VIPs are often the most fickle and first to jump ship should a better deal be presented by overseas bookmakers.


One of the other proposed changes will be the total shutdown of the TAB's telephone betting service, which has been on the way out for years.

However, just because TAB operators are set to disappear at almost all race meetings, doesn't mean your local TAB agency is going to close.

"There will still be TAB agencies and a retail network in the future and some of those are reopening this week," says RITA (TAB) executive chairman Dean McKenzie.

"Four out of something like 80 retail outlets are going to close but there isn't going to be a wholesale closure of them."

The move away from having betting operators on track is going to be unpopular initially, and with some for quite a while, but McKenzie says he and his board have little option but to look at all areas in which costs can be cut.

"Everybody in racing wants change, well change means change. We can't just change the things that will be popular because then nothing will get done," he said.

McKenzie promised more, potentially more radical, changes lie ahead.