THE wrangle for control of the Gold Coast Turf Club (GCTC) has escalated with Queensland Racing (QR) appointing a forensic accountant to check its books.

QR released figures this morning that shows GCTC was $497,189 in the red for 08/09FY. Deloittes will investigate a number of turf clubs in June including Brisbane, Gold Coast and Townsville.

QR boss Bob Bentley, compared the finances of some Queensland clubs with the salary cap debacle surrounding the Melbourne Storm.

“If the Melbourne Storm has taught us anything, it is that rugby league’s control body knew too little of the operations at its clubs,” says Bentley.

“Queensland Racing Limited (QRL) has worked very hard over recent years to ensure it keeps a watchful eye on the books of the State’s horse racing clubs. Our major clubs are used to the auditing process and shouldn’t be surprised by this announcement.”

Bentley says previous audits revealed more than 50 per cent of TAB racing clubs currently operating in Queensland posted losses in the 08/09 financial year.

GCTC chief executive Grant Sheather would not comment on the matter.

It’s another blow to the home of the Magic Millions Racing Carnival and Saturday’s Prime Minister’s Cup – where a computer malfunction meant severe revenue losses when the tote crashed for the day.

Bentley says the racing public should ‘not be fooled’ by some turf clubs crying poor and blaming Queensland Racing for their shortcomings.

“Around 30 per cent are in financial difficulty having delivered consistent losses and they are now feeling the effects of poor liquidity,” he says.

“The arguments put forward by some, such as the Gold Coast Turf Club (GCTC) simply do not stack up.

“For example, the GCTC says it needs to more than double its track fees (from $45 to a whopping $100) to maintain the Bundall facility. This is an example of a desperate club funding a fundamentally flawed business model.

“QRL has put forward a multi-million dollar redevelopment proposal to the GCTC, should this be accepted all fees will be similar to Caloundra including track fees at just $15 per week.”

QR and GCTC officials have been at loggerheads over funding the next growth phase of the facility. Turf club chairman Andrew Eggleston believes QR is attempting to asset grab another key piece of Queensland racing infrastructure.

But Bentley wants to ‘set the record straight’ about turf club funding.

“Each TAB club in Queensland receives an administration subsidy, training track subsidy, on course tote revenue, integrity services and 100 per cent of prizemoney,” he says.

“Unfortunately many of those, including racing administrators, who are calling for higher prizemoney to be paid, are currently active account holders with corporate bookmakers or betting exchanges.”

“The QRL cannot increase prizemoney and in turn suffer lower returns from ‘free riding’ on the Queensland product. QRL must be fiscally responsible and will not bankrupt the state’s racing industry.”

Bentley is calling for turf clubs to embrace change and the reform process the industry is undertaking.

He cites the Sunshine Coast’s Corbould Park’s $21million redevelopment as a prime example of what can be achieved when the control body enjoyed a successful partnership with a local turf club.

“Upgrades such as Corbould Park are part of Queensland Racing’s vision to make racing sustainable across the state,” he says.

“Only a few clubs have any capacity to invest in the asset they hold and this is why the government and QRL is committed to a program to upgrade industry assets to the tune of more than $80 million.”

Bentley says the amendment is about creating a strong, accountable industry that protects the interests of the people who rely on it for their livelihood.

“It must also protect the huge investment that will be made by the taxpayers of Queensland, via redirected wagering tax, over the next four years,” he says.

“The taxpayers of Queensland will demand and will deserve nothing less than full accountability and they will want to know their investment is being used to grow an industry that currently contributes $1.44 billion to Gross State Product and employs around 30,000 people.”

Racing club finances 08/09 FY (released by QR)

Queensland Turf Club (now merged with BTC) - $990,908 in the red

Gold Coast Turf Club - $497,189 in the red

Townsville Turf Club - $390,641 in the red

Brisbane Turf Club (now merged with QTC) - $380,012 in the red

Toowoomba Turf Club - $148,187 in the red

Sunshine Coast Turf Club - $44,609 in the red (New Business Model to operate from May 1 2010 and will produce a profit of $220,000 in the black)

Mackay Turf Club - $117,095 in the black

Ipswich Turf Club - $108,376 in the black

Rockhampton Jockey Club - $876,856 in the black (due to inclusion of $1,047,484 capital amount relating to track upgrade recognised in RJC books). Excluding this amount the club would have posted a loss of $170,628.

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