Government considering prohibiting online betting outside of TAB

The Government has announced it is considering prohibiting online betting outside of the TAB, a move which it says will provide a "significant" new source of money for local racing and sport while addressing risks with online gambling.

It would mean the Government would be able to place "greater controls" over the online gambling environment, Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty said, and the new revenue source would mean more money could be allocated to harm minimisation.

McAnulty has also confirmed a major new partnership between TAB NZ and a British betting company and released a report on the future of the greyhound racing industry, warning "the status quo is no longer viable". 

He said Cabinet had agreed to an in-principle decision to extend TAB's monopoly on sport and racing betting to an online environment, subject to further work being undertaken. 

"The TAB was set up as a monopoly to fund New Zealand racing and sports. But the onset of unregulated online gambling changed the game and our racing and sports industry has been losing money ever since," McAnulty said in a statement.

"Regulating this environment offers a significant new revenue source for local racing and sport, while also addressing the inherent risks in unregulated online gambling.

"By prohibiting online gambling outside of the TAB the Government can place greater controls over the betting environment. We would expect to also see much more money allocated to harm minimisation, a fairer deal for Kiwi punters and sports codes and a greater focus on animal welfare."

McAnulty on Tuesday also confirmed a 25-year partnership between TAB and UK betting company Entain which he said will deliver at least $900 million in guaranteed funding to the racing industry in its first years.

Entain, which operates multiple betting brands globally, will be able to use its economies of scale and technology to deliver TAB's operations, the minister said. 

It would lead to an "improved offering for customers".

"This is one of the most significant days in New Zealand racing history," McAnulty said. "This deal will reverse falling revenues for racing and provides certainty over the coming years.

"I'm confident this agreement will help secure a solid future for the racing industry and sports in New Zealand through increased financial distributions to national sports organisations.

"TAB NZ has been facing increasing financial challenges over recent years and was facing an uncertain future, largely due to competition from offshore gambling websites.

"The agreement provides an upfront payment of $150 million upon approval of the agreement. In addition to this there will be a 50 percent revenue share from day-1 with guaranteed payments of at least $150 million per year for the first five years."

McAnulty said the racing industry was worth $1.6 billion to the economy and directly employed 14,000 Kiwis. 

"It's reliant on TAB NZ distributions and if they were allowed to fall that would hit the industry hard and jobs and revenue lost. 

"It's important this deal assists in reducing gambling harm. As such I've received confirmation from TAB NZ of a $5 million allocation for harm minimisation measures upon approval of the agreement.

"Entain has better harm minimisation technologies, such as facial recognition tools that can be rolled out in TAB venues."

McAnulty said the deal didn't prevent the Government from putting in place further harm minimisation regulation and he said he intends to do so.

TAB announced in March it had selected Entain as its preferred partner, subject to ministerial approval. It said financial challenges meant exploring a strategic partnership arrangement was in its best interests.

But the Problem Gambling Foundation raised concerns about the deal, pointing to regulatory issues in the UK.

Meanwhile, McAnulty announced the release of the Racing Integrity Board's report into the future of the greyhound industry.

"I originally intended to publicly release the report for stakeholder discussions early this year but this was delayed due to extreme weather events. I am pleased to now be in a position to share the report publicly and engage with key stakeholders to ensure the work can move forward.

"It is clear to me that the status quo is no longer viable and we are faced with two options: continue under strict conditions or closure. I will continue to progress this issue over the coming months but unfortunately, the delay has meant I've likely run out of time to bring a decision before Cabinet before the election."

In the interim period, he's instructed the Racing Integrity Board to work closely with Greyhound Racing New Zealand to ensure animal welfare is prioritised and improvements are made.

Animal rights groups have for years raised concerns about greyhound racing.