TAB outsourcing could have 'disastrous' impact on sports, says Basketball NZ CEO

This article has been amended to more accurately reflect the Messara Report's recommendations with respect to the TAB's betting operations.

The proposed outsourcing of the TAB could have a "disastrous" impact on funding for a host of sports in New Zealand, says Basketball NZ CEO Iain Potter.

An independent review of the NZ racing industry released last week – the Messara Report – suggested dramatic changes needed to be made and included 17 specific recommendations.

One of those was the relocation of the TAB's commercial activities off-shore. It's possible that could mean the removal of its current mandate to reinvest money from Kiwi punters directly back into the relevant sport.

The TAB currently provides funds to a wide range of sporting bodies across the country. Basketball NZ is one its major benefactors, having received an annual injection of $2 million over the past two years.

That amount represents approximately a third of the organisation's total annual revenue and Potter says losing that would have dire consequences for one of the country's fastest-growing sports.

"As it stands right now, it's vital to the sport," Potter told Andrew Gourdie and Jim Kayes on RadioLIVE's Sunday Sport.

"If there was any interruption to that revenue stream because of the changes, it'd be disastrous for us."

The impact would be even more keenly felt among the lower-profile sports to which the TAB contributes, such as ice hockey and baseball.

Potter believes the loss of that funding would have long-lasting implications and would significantly stunt the development of any affected sport.

"When you hit a big road bump financially, and you have to pull back on programmes and retrench and rebuild, even when the income comes back, you don’t rebuild in a year. It takes 3-5 years to build back to where you were.

"We need the confidence to know that the revenue's going to be there year on year, otherwise we won't develop.

"Even if you just lost half of it, you'd be taking out the scalpel."

TAB outsourcing could have 'disastrous' impact on sports, says Basketball NZ CEO

Sports now represent a large portion of the total amount wagered by Kiwis at the TAB and Potter says that shift wasn't adequately represented in the Messara Report.

"We're disappointed that they haven't recognised that sports betting is now a huge part of their business.

"They’ve failed to recognise the stakeholder interest, which includes the sporting sector."

"We need to be treated as an equal. We need to be at the table and we need to be considered."

There's also concern that the trans-Tasman move would result in the organisation losing touch with the "realities" of the New Zealand sporting landscape.

"They're here in NZ, so we can talk to them about the realities of what we can do in our sport. They understand the NZ community and the fragility of it.

"We've seen it in other industries where, when it becomes either Australian or off-shore dominated, that understanding is lost and there can be negative consequences."

Potter says he'll be working with Sport New Zealand to reinforce the importance of the revenue stream provided by the TAB.

On Friday, NZ Racing Board chief executive John Allen said the recommendations contained in Messara's review were not set in stone and needed to be further investigated before they were adopted.  

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