Day At The Track

Financial success not easy in the 1980s

10:52 PM 06 Oct 2008 NZDT
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Nelson's Richmond Park
Nelson's Richmond Park - in the early 1980s
Whips are flying in the home straight at Nelson's Richmond Park in the early 1980s.

The effects of inflation and world-wide economic strife took heavy toll of the racing and trotting clubs of New Zealand in the first two seasons of the 1980s.

For 1981-82, the Auckland Racing Club showed a loss of $149,963 and most other galloping clubs reported relatively comparable deficits. The battling Wellington Trotting Club sustained a loss of $109,000 on the term's operations; Forbury Park, which likewise could ill afford such adversity, registered a loss of $93,937. Of the Addington clubs, Metropolitan showed a loss of $37,222 and New Brighton $23,000, although Canterbury Park managed to keep ahead of things with a profit of $20,897.

With all this hardship around the Auckland Trotting Club, steered enthusiastically and ingeniously by President Ron Robertson, Secretary Jim Patterson and its energetic Committee recorded a profit of $138,781. The previous year its accounts had shown a return of $131,759, while in 1979/80 it had made a record profit of $320,370.

Such success was well earned by the club, whose policy for some years - through the presidencies of Reg Lewis, Merv Corner, Dr John Sullivan and now Ron Robertson - was to provide with its trotting bill of fare an evening's entertainment in a comfortable environment, offering attractive competition with other forms of leisure.

On the eve of the 1982/83 season, in which the Auckland Trotting Club would host the 42nd edition of the Interdominion Championships, the club announced that, assisted by sponsorships from Benson and Hedges and others plus a grant from the New Zealand Racing Authority, its stakes for the series would break all records. Well over half a million dollars would be distributed during the four nights' racing, are cord $440,500 of this for championship events, with record Grand Final purses of $180,000 for the pacers and $60,000 for the trotters.

Alarmed at the plight of so many other clubs, the Racing and Trotting Conferences and the Greyhound Racing Association in Mid-1982 appointed a delegation to discuss ‘pressing financial problems' with the minister of internal Affairs (Alan Highet).

It was agreed at this meeting that urgent action was needed ‘to change the industry's structure so that it can adequately compete with other activities for the available leisure dollar'.

Highet intimated that the Government was considering financial relief for racing, trotting and greyhound authorities, which would be ‘forthcoming as soon as possible in 1983'.

Along with other Government officials, Highet in recent years had shown growing interest in the Lotto system of gambling that had been operating for some years in various Australian States. Outcry against Lotto's introduction to New Zealand was heard loudest and longest from racing and trotting clubs, and in 1982 the matter was shelved - for a time at least.

A Salute to Trotting with Ron Bisman



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