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Cracking the whip on industry horse trading

THE WA Trotting Association and WA Turf Club are in close talks regarding a possible joint venture under which the Belmont Park facility would become a host venue for the two sports.

WATC chairman Ted van Heemst confirmed to Business News that the two racing codes had been in close negotiations for some time and were near finalising a deal, which would involve the WATA selling Gloucester Park and moving in with the WATC at its Belmont Racecourse.

“The thing will have to come to a head very quickly,” Mr van Heemst said.

This urgency is due to the financial pressure on racing and the need to redevelop the Belmont facility.

Although optimistic of a deal being struck shortly, Mr van Heemst said negotiations were still at a delicate stage and he did not want to compromise the deal at the last moment by making any premature public announcements.

The move would pre-empt any future findings by a State Government racing industry review, which is due to report by the end of the year.

The WATA has commissioned a valuation of the Gloucester Park land, which property sources say could be worth more than $30 million.

Cashed up, the WATA then would use the funds to ‘buy-in to’ the WA Turf Club.

WATA president Gary Papadopoulos said a buy-in figure that would make the association an equal partner with the WATC had not been finalised, but a final tally of $20 million to $25 million was possible.

The WATA money would help fund the redevelopment of Belmont Park. According to Mr van Heemst, building a new state-of-the-art stand could cost about $25 million.

The membership of the WATA is understood to be split over the future direction of Gloucester Park and remains a hurdle that would need to be resolved before any amalgamation can take place.

Mr Papadopoulos said a union between the racing codes was the way of the future and would be inevitable.

The WA Greyhound Racing Association also was involved in the talks initially, but problems surfaced over track and stadium design and the governance of an amalgamated code.

WAGRA executive officer Ken Norquay ruled out joining forces with the other two racing bodies, saying the association was committed to remaining at its Cannington headquarters.

“We couldn’t see ourselves working with them,” Mr Norquay said.

Mr van Heemst said another benefit of an amalgamation would be the economies of scale achieved by reducing administration costs and better utilising the Belmont property.

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