The Canberra Racing Club suffered its latest blow this week when an aspiring apprentice jockey told leading trainer Nick Olive she would be seeking opportunities in Queensland.
Staying in Canberra would've meant forking out about $3000 to fund the first year of her course because pursuing a career as a jockey in the capital is not considered by the ACT government's Skills Canberra program as an apprenticeship entitled to subsidised funding.
Almost anywhere else in the country, a jockey can pursue their apprenticeship fee-free under similar state government-funded Vocational Education and Training programs.
One less jockey in town lowers the capacity of horses which can be trained at any one time, reducing the size of Canberra race fields and hence wagering turnover on the product. Lower turnover means less of a collect on the Point of Consumption (POC) tax, which therefore means less revenue for the ACT government.
POC is a tax on wagers made across Australia, implemented to capture some of the revenue generated by online corporate bookmakers who up until that point had been exempt from paying a wagering tax.
A tax is collected from each bet, pooled together by state governments and a percentage recycled back into the racing industry.
Except in the ACT. Bets placed by Canberra residents last financial year generated roughly $11.5m in POC tax. But none of those funds are pumped back into the industry, threatening its future in the capital.
The Andrew Barr government provides a flat sum of funding each year to the industry - roughly $6.5m in 2019-20. A Liberal government has indicated it would maintain that flat sum but also return 20 per cent of the POC tax - another $2.3m on top based on last financial year's collect.
Earlier this year my colleague David Polkinghorne asked Racing NSW boss Peter V'landys whether the ACT government should inject some POC tax dollars back into the industry.
"It's essential because you won't grow without it," he said. "They're basically taking revenue from money that should be going to the race club. That should be reversed and at least be compensated for what they should've got. They should get a share of it."
It's not just a prizemoney boost that POC funding would provide.
"It's about infrastructure, it's about horse and participant welfare programs," Olive said.
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Olive used the ABC's Chief Minister talkback program to invite Mr Barr to Thoroughbred Park, and meet some of the 440 staff who sustain the industry in Canberra. The invitation remains on the table should Mr Barr win re-election this weekend.
"I'm not just going to sign over a blank cheque and divert resources away from health, education, police, emergency services," was some of Mr Barr's reply.
POC tax dollars are funding a myriad of sectors in the capital. By diverting some back into the industry, it would ultimately provide a greater POC tax revenue and increase the $54.5m the industry contributes to Canberra's economy each year.