The Gold Coast Bulletin

Stevens: Stop racing’s Friday night frights

- PAUL WESTON

THE state government and Racing Queensland is taking a big gamble by promoting Friday night racing at the Gold Coast Turf Club, veteran MP Ray Stevens warns.

A former shadow minister for racing with decades of involvemen­t at the turf club, Mr Stevens has fired a political shot at Labor’s $31m upgrade at Bundall, which includes a tunnel under the racetrack, an all-weather racing track and lights for night racing.

“Good luck Gold Coast Turf Club with that for, as most dodgy operators infamously say, ‘the cheque is in the mail’,” the Mermaid Beach MP (left) told Parliament.

“It is the issue of the Friday night racing that concerns me most, as anyone with a modicum of racing knowledge would know, if you race Friday night, you won’t be racing on Saturday afternoon.

“As a board member for 14 years, I know that the Gold Coast Turf Club generates its well-known public attendance on Saturday afternoons primarily because of the metropolit­an racing in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.”

Mr Stevens predicts any major changes from the current scenario will bring a serious drop in attendance and fundraisin­g capacity of the GCTC.

“Racing Queensland is obsessed with the notion that its betting turnover will be massively increased if it races on Friday nights at the Gold Coast in conjunctio­n with Mooney Valley in Melbourne and Canterbury in Sydney.

“Both of those venues conduct their meetings with little public attendance on Friday nights and at the Gold Coast it will be even worse.”

Turf club chairman Brett Cook said the club was conscious that its current business model of racing on Saturdays was hugely successful and would take “an evolutiona­ry view to migrate some of its business to night racing”.

The nights where racing would occur “are up for discussion”. Lights will be introduced at the club during 2024 and 2025.

“The original estimation would be a maximum of 10 night meetings programmed over different days of the week,” Mr Cook said.

“Apart from some Friday nights the club would also take into considerat­ion the opportunit­y to race on Wednesday evenings which could be aligned to Happy Valley in Hong Kong and the Saturday twilights which would run in conjunctio­n with the current Toowoomba program.”

Mr Cook believes these types of new opportunit­ies will enhance betting turnover, leading to better contributi­ons from the racing industry to the body and government.

Mr Stevens said the turf club would be competing on Friday nights with the “array of restaurant­s, nightclubs and pokie palaces for the younger patrons”.

“And for the over 50s, which are the majority of Gold Coast members, they will be tucked up in bed.”

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