Horse racing: Racing industry awarded emergency support package

The NZ racing industry will receive a $72.5 million support package to ease the financial strains of COVID-19.

Deputy Prime Minister and Racing Minister Winston Peters says it will be the "first step towards a long term restoration of racing".

"We can't guild the lily," Peters says. "The racing industry has been hit by the perfect storm of COVID-19, while in a weak financial state and in the midst of a reform programme.

"As a result, there is a genuine risk of insolvency and the industry losing the future gains of its reforms.

"The Government has a respond, recover, and rebuild strategy for Covid-19. This announcement is the first step towards a long-term restoration of racing."

The support package includes:

  • $50m relief grant for the Racing Industry Transition Agency, $26m of which will be used to pay its outstanding supplier bill
  • $2.5m for the Department of Internal Affairs to fast-track work on the online gambling revenue, and address loss of revenue impacts on community and sport groups
  • Up to $20m to construct two new All Weather race tracks

Peters has addressed what he deems a "seriously underestimated" economic contribution from the racking industry that amounts to $1.6 billion annually, as well as New Zealand's world class bloodstock exporting.

"The other share of this package will ensure RITA and each of the racing codes can maintain a baseline functionality and resume racing activities," Peters adds.

Also approved as part of the pre-budget announcement is a $20m grant from the Provincial Growth Fund for the creation of two new tracks in Manawatu and Christchurch's Riccarton Park.

Peters says reduced gambling in community and sport organisations had also had a significant impact, along with the proliferation of online betting platforms.

"We have had enough of old men leaning against the rails, scratching their derrieres and blaming everybody else," Peters says.

"We are going to make racing great again."