Dump Belmont, report recommends: horse racing

A REPORT into the long-term future of horse racing facilities in Perth has recommended the industry keep the Ascot racetrack and get rid of Belmont course.

Racing and Wagering WA, the governing body, commissioned independent consultants GHD to review racing and harness track facilities to provide a plan for the future.

The Metropolitan Equine Asset Review Taskforce (MEART) report identified Ascot as a multi-purpose venue for training, racing and stabling.

It suggested Ascot was a more efficient use of resources than Belmont Park, which was a racing venue only.

It proposed Ascot adopt a multi-use racing and training track and that facilities at Ascot be retained to provide training facilities for owners, breeders and trainers who reside north or within close proximity of the city.

It also recommended Ascot’s public facilities be renovated to maintain a premium, major event venue and to upgrade lighting.

The report estimated the upgrade at Ascot would cost about $30 million.

GHD reported that Belmont Park would not be needed in the long-term. But it was owned by Perth Racing, which had control of the facility and had committed to a redevelopment.

The report estimated a Belmont Park redevelopment would cost $24 million more than Perth Racing’s available funds.

MEART chairman Bob Pearson said the report was critical to understand the industry’s long-term needs and viable future amidst a highly competitive wagering, leisure and sporting entertainment market.

The racing industry in Western Australia is experiencing a decline in attendance, which contributes to a decline in on-course wagering, a revenue stream for respective race clubs.

GHD completed its findings while balancing the longer-term needs of the thoroughbred and harness codes against population change, revenue volatility and potential changes in wagering regulation and increased competition.

The report said that most of the assets held by the clubs were over 40 years old and had the capacity to accommodate public attendances far in excess of current attendance numbers.