The man charged with running TAB NZ for the next 18 months says the industry looks on track for significantly larger payout for next season but there is still an enormous amount of work to be done.
The much delayed and increasingly-complicated running of TAB NZ has gained some clarity with Dean McKenzie appointed chief transition officer on an 18-month contract.
Effectively McKenzie will fill the role of chief executive but it is termed chief transition officer because he will run the day-to-day business of TAB NZ while a new TAB board of directors are put in place by Minister of Racing Grant Robertson.
That latter process is crucial as TAB NZ enters one of the most important eras in its history, with enormous legislative change and the overseas wagering market changing quicker than ever before as a time when joint ventures are a hot topic.
The appointment of the board has been slowed after the selection committee that advises Robertson quite rightly suggested nominations should stay open, as they don't believe all the skill sets and experience required were met by the original applicants and code nominees.
Robertson has made it clear he is prepared to wait to appoint the right board, most likely of seven directors, and that could take months.
The interim board was led by McKenzie but he has resigned that post to take the chief executive role with respected administrator Liz Dawson appointed as the interim chair.
What does all that mean?
It means Dawson leads the board until the minister can appoint a new board, which Dawson could well still lead, and McKenzie will run TAB NZ's business, effectively implementing the board's decisions.
Then the new board will eventually advertise for a new chief executive to possibly replace McKenzie in 18 months.
"My appointment is about giving the business some stability and continuity between the interim board we have now and the board the minister will appoint," explains McKenzie.
"We have a lot of people who have worked very hard for the industry in the last couple of years and we don't want to lose all that knowledge and momentum during transition.
"And most importantly we are working on a three and five-year plan for the TAB which the Minister wants by June so that process has to continue even while he is appointing the new board."
McKenzie being appointed to the CTO role means he will have the greatest input into the day to day decisions of how TAB NZ is run, with its main goal increasing returns to the three racing codes as well as the smaller amount returned to sports codes in New Zealand from sports betting.
While many people in the racing industry couldn't name and don't really care who runs the codes or TAB NZ, it is incredibly crucial to the thing they do care about most: stakes and their flow on effect.
The good news is with turnovers enormously above budget so far this season, McKenzie is confident TAB NZ will be able to return millions more to the codes, with a board meeting next week likely to give them their first real indication of exact numbers.
"There are a lot of factors in that equation but firstly turnover has been great, very high with good profit percentages," says McKenzie.
"Then we have lower costs through changes made last year, we have the Government levy repeals coming online and we are seeing the overseas fees from racing information usage (Race Fields) producing great returns."
Those numbers could combine to see TAB NZ raw profits up between $20million and $30million, potentially more, for this season but McKenzie warns not all may be returned directly to the industry.
"What Covid taught us and a lot of other businesses is the importance of cash reserves so we have to take that into account as well," says McKenzie.
"But on many levels the business is operating well ahead of budget and ultimately that should show out in our returns to the industry if things continue to track that way."