License article

Colin Barnett told to sell WA TAB to pay off debt

Show comments

West Australia's leading business group has urged Colin Barnett's government to sell Australia's last remaining state-owned betting agency as gaming giants Tatts Group and Tabcorp prepare to battle for the potential $1 billion deal.

The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the government was not a natural owner of the asset and should include the sale as part of a privatisation push that could reduce its large debt pile.

"Gaming has evolved from the tote at the local races into a highly competitive, global online industry offering countless betting markets and the modern reality is an unnatural fit for a state government," said WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott.

Premier Colin Barnett first raised the for-sale flag over the TAB in mid-2014 and while it was officially listed for sale in the state's May budget, political divisions and issues within the racing industry have raised questions over the timetable for a privatisation.

Ms Willmott said the obvious interest from companies, which are expected to include Tabcorp, Tatts and a potential bid from billionaire Kerry Stokes meant it should be put on the market.

"The government should sell any asset where the private sector can provide the service more efficiently and in a competitive market, which is clearly the case with the TAB and the ongoing support of the local industry should be made a condition of the sale process."


The WA Treasury website said a deal remains on its agenda but the state's racing and gaming minister Colin Holt would not be drawn on his appetite for whether the process may move forward in 2016.

"I am focused on ensuring the racing industry in Western Australia including country racing, continues to succeed, is sustainable in the long term, and continues making a strong contribution to the economy, just as it has in the past," Mr Holt said in a statement to Fairfax Media.

Tabcorp owns the former government TABs in NSW and Victoria while Tatts owns the TABs in Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

Tabcorp was the winning bidder in the 2014 privatisation of the ACT's TAB where it received a 50-year totalisator licence, a 15-year sports bookmaking licence and approval to offer its Keno and Trackside products in Canberra pubs, clubs and betting shops.

Tatts chief executive Robbie Cooke confirmed in December the company would be interested in bidding for WA's TAB.

Corporate advisory firms and investment banks have held early talks about an advisory role to the government.