John Allen, as CEO of the Racing Industry Transition Authority (RITA), the organisation better known as TAB and the only national racing and sports betting operator in the nation, has essentially been running the racing industry in New Zealand. However Allen has recently decided it’s time to step down and announced he’s retiring from the end of the year. His departure may be more linked to modifications in the gambling room than to a willingness to spend more time fishing.
In a statement about his retirement, Allen explains, “This is my decision. I have been here over four years and I only ever intended staying for five so the time is right. I think the time is right because some of the key projects we have been working on are now in place, like the FOB [fixed odds betting] and a lot of the legislation recommended by the Messara report is close to being finalised.”
Allen’s time at the top was criticised for failing to provide the sector with important yields. He oversaw the launch of a fresh FOB platform which was supposed to produce higher turnover, but which cost only more than anticipated originally. He was also identified as a factor in an inability to enhance yields to the racing industry that would have made it possible for races to raise their stakes.
He added: “We have had decreased turnover because of the disruption to punters when the new FOB platform came online but that is a one-off that won’t happen again and we had a tough period at the end of last year with margins, but they have since bounced back. But I also think the racing industry hasn’t been helped by delays in securing the money we could have had from Race Fields legislation and some of the other extra revenue we expect to come online.”
His departure was very timely as TAB face a major inquiry and it is unsure about its future. In July, RITA substituted the New Zealand Racing Board and some challenged the group’s direction. There were worries that the returns given were not commensurate with wages paid to high-ranking RITA managers, and the entity’s virtual monopoly was seen as the root of the issue. There has been talk about extending the sector and enabling more licensed operators, but nothing concrete has been suggested yet.