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TAB sell-off faces delay over competition regulator fears

Efforts by the McGowan Government to sell the TAB for up to half a billion dollars could be held up by the competition regulator, the boss of the betting agency has revealed.

Amid expectations Eastern States wagering giant Tabcorp is in prime position to buy the TAB, Racing and Wagering WA chief Richard Burt suggested any deal would likely need approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The prediction came at a recent racing industry stakeholder meeting in Albany, where Mr Burt gave the most detailed picture yet of the Government’s plans to privatise the TAB.

According to Mr Burt, the racing industry stood to gain about $24 million a year from the Government’s new point-of-consumption tax, which came into effect on January 1.

The tax slugs betting companies 15 per cent of their net wagering revenue — or $15 out of every $100 a punter loses — and is forecast to generate more than $80 million a year from 2020-21.

Mr Burt said the proceeds from the tax, along with annual returns from the TAB and fees paid by wagering operators offering bets on WA races, meant the local industry would be no worse off.

Under current arrangements, the industry receives about $185 million a year.

He also noted that even though the licence to operate the TAB was being sold, the Government would still be responsible for running and regulating the industry and would collect and pass on money from the new owners.

This would be done through a new body known as Racing WA.

“The body you know today will be the body you will know in a year’s time,” he said.

“The aim is to have a lower risk, more financially viable outcome than what we can provide ourselves running the wagering licence.”

Faced with questions about the South Australian and Queensland TAB sales, which left the local racing industries crippled, Mr Burt stressed WA would not repeat the same mistakes.

“I was around when they did it, and I know the process they went through,” Mr Burt told the meeting.

“But suffice to say they did terrible deals.”

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