SA TROTS -HRSA Notice to participants and licence holders

Happy New Year. I hope you’ve enjoyed the start to the 2024 racing season. Please take the time to read through this email.


This year is going to be a big one, with aims to build on the growth achieved in 2023 and a strong emphasis on infrastructure, along with our ongoing aspirations regarding prizemoney, to name a couple of key focal points.


As a licence holder and participant, you’re part of a significant group of ongoing contributors to the industry. Boards and administrators will come and go, but you (the collective ‘You’ as a group) are the constant, the ones who will outlive all others, and therefore a primary focus relating to our decision making. Those of us at HRSA are custodians of your industry, and it has been wonderful to see many of you recently invest further into the sport you love, which has yielded some promising overall results and shielded us from some murky waters.


To elaborate a touch further on this, horse population in SA from 2022 to 2023 increased from 714 to 813 which represents a 13.9% increase in one season, and the first increase since 2010. Furthermore, there was a similar increase to races conducted in SA during this period from 902 to 1032 (14.4% increase). My favourite thing to see in our form guide is a horse having its first start in SA. For instance, at Globe Derby today there were four entered from the stables (in race book order) of Ryan Hryhorec, Peter Hodgson, Kenneth Talent, and Jason Booth having their first start in SA coming from interstate – I could have picked out almost any meeting in recent times and found many others who have done the same. These green shoots as I like to call them have led to an increase to market share (market share in this instance being the share of betting turnover on the TAB in SA between the three racing codes thoroughbreds, greyhounds, and harness) from a low of 6.9% in financial year 2022 to 8.2% in FY23. Currently halfway through FY24 we are trending around the 10% mark which will be a significant result for industry into next financial year. To summarise, the market share we will achieve this financial year will be the basis of two of our three important payment streams next financial year; 1) TAB monthly payments, and 2) POC Tax rebates. Not to mention that an increase in numbers allows for better programming which leads to more competitiveness and in turn, stronger wagering figures (which helps all revenue streams including our third one being corporate bookmaker payments). In essence, growth breeds growth.


2023 also saw SA increase its market share nationally in harness racing (percentage of wagering on harness racing state by state). QLD and SA were the two states that increased its share last season.


The alternate to the ‘growth breeding growth’ status would have been a continual downhill slide with horse numbers which would have led to smaller market share, more difficult programming, weaker betting figures, a drop in prizemoney, and a more vulnerable state of affairs. Given we are currently experiencing a decline in overall betting turnover nationally across all racing codes (in all states) by approx. 20% due to macroeconomic forces such as rising interest rates and higher cost of living, a scenario that didn’t achieve the growth that has occurred coupled with this 20% drop would have sadly eventually led to a closure of our industry in SA due to HRSA becoming insolvent. This most likely would have occurred sometime in 2024/25 after a period of time racing for reduced amounts in the vicinity of $2k on a Monday and $3k/$4.5k on a Saturday. The point of highlighting this is to thank you for doing what you do – getting on with business, growing your stables, continuing your participation, and uniting to get us into a healthier position.


The ongoing battle with this overall decline in betting turnover (which ultimately funds are industry) needs to be counteracted by these growing numbers to achieve a higher percentage of POC tac rebate, and of monthly SA-TAB dividends in addition to the recent increase made to percentage of turnover received in our wagering agreement (corporate bookmaker revenue) signed at the beginning of this financial year. Eventually – in the longer term – I believe that industry funding (all codes and jurisdictions) will not solely rely on betting turnover. In my opinion we will evolve to a point where the funding model is split between wagering revenue proceeds and industry asset proceeds in order to maintain and grow the level of prizemoney that is required to sustainably fund racing. But alas, I digress momentarily.    


Given where we’ve come from, where we’re heading, and how we’ll get there, it’s important to keep lines of communication open. I know that some of you prefer to keep to yourselves, which is more than fine, whereas others like to put forward thoughts, opinions, questions, theories, etc – that’s fantastic too, and much welcomed. It’s paramount that this is continued as we evolve and grow because the industry needs to represent everyone involved, starting with you. Something HRSA value highly is arming you with the information required in order for you to make informed decisions and opinions. In addition to having communication channels open to you via committees such as your local racing club, BOTRA, and IAC, it’s crucial that you continue (or commence) your contact with HRSA.


Whether it’s David Thuen regarding Race Day, Trevor Styles in relation to Integrity, Dani Hill for Welfare/Pathways, Leanne Ewen for Admin, or myself for Industry Relations (I’m using the broadest title possible because my door is always open) please use us. If you need to know something or would like to put forward a suggestion or air a concern, this is how to do so. Attempting to source information on social media in most cases does not achieve this. For those of you who are in contact with me regularly, you know that there is the greatest level of intent to provide you, the participant, with all the detail you require, along with any clarification, context, commentary, and support. In return, the only thing I ask is that you are respectful to my team. If you need to vent, come to me with it. Furthermore, interacting on social media with members of our industry can be terrific for general banter, healthy and respectful debate, support, and sharing ideas. It can however also be a cesspool for disrespect and negativity, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and campaigning personal agendas – all things which can adversely affect the culture of an industry and place us at risk (simply put, you will not receive all the information here to make informed decisions for your businesses). Additionally, a suitable litmus test is not to say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say face to face to someone. As licence holders, it should therefore now be very clear when/how you should use social media, and when to contact HRSA (or the relevant committees mentioned).


Compared to other states, we’re still an under-funded and vulnerable industry. But we’re a passionate one with good people, who have shown enormous resilience in recent times to not only continue what you love doing, but growing and evolving your footprint. We have financial shortfalls in all segments of the industry, there’s no hiding that. We have shortfalls in prizemoney levels, in infrastructure, in club funding, in staff numbers, in equipment and with resources in general. There will be wins and there will be loses along the way, however if we keep growing the pie and remaining open minded to change, we can achieve our goals together. 2023 was a solid demonstration of that, and hopefully the start of something greater.


Good luck for the season ahead.


Best wishes

Dean Elliott


Harness Racing SA