History

Wagering and the Totalisator Agency Board of Western Australia (WATAB) & RWWA

The WATAB opened its first agency in Barrack Street, Perth in March 1961, introducing a new era of support for the State's racing industry. The WATAB's first annual report recorded a turnover of just $1 million:

The recommendation for an off-course totalisator scheme came from a 1959 Gambling Royal Commission. The WATAB was established to replace the 206 licensed off-course betting shops, legal in Western Australia since 1958. Similar authorities were formed in other Australian states.

Operating methods in the early days were primitive and the WATAB was considered a "nightmare of pieces of paper". To overcome this problem, experiments began in 1962 with an NCR selling machine. By the following year, all agencies were using this mechanised system.

The first computers were introduced in 1965. Two years later, the first agencies were brought on-line for message transmission to a central computer.

A number of legislative changes were implemented throughout the 1960s such as:

  • increased betting options
  • the right to accept bets on Interdominion trotting when the event was held in New Zealand
  • allowing for the sale of machines and expertise to race clubs so they could conduct their own totalisators
  • a revised formula for distribution of the WATAB's surplus to racing and trotting underwent change
  • 18-year-olds were allowed to work in agencies.

Customer participation betting terminals were introduced to all agencies and market research continued to result in new ideas such as betting on All Up, Favourite Numbers and Trifectas. With the introduction of greyhound racing into Western Australia in 1974, legislative changes cleared the way for the WATAB to be part of the new racing sector. Other legislative changes allowed for the legal age for betting to be lowered to 18 years of age and the establishment of the Racecourse Development Trust allowing WA Race Clubs to receive funds from WATAB unclaimed dividends.

The introduction of instant lottery products and the Burswood Casino increased competition for the entertainment dollar. Recognising the need to move from an operational to a marketing and selling-based organisation, the WATAB saw many changes in the 1987-88 period when a marketing and sales infrastructure was introduced. This included:

  • the introduction of AWA betting terminals
  • electronic pre-race dividend information via TVW7's Teletext service
  • a computerised home betting system via Telstra's Viatel service
  • new bet type Sweepstakes on major events
  • upgrading of country outlets
  • provision of pre-sell betting and betting right up to jump time
  • additional race meetings
  • "Footy" betting
  • the introduction of Sky Channel service to outlets.

In 1991 the WATAB's turnover was less than the previous year for the first time in its history. Whilst much of this downturn was attributed to the economic recession, much of the problem stemmed from its diminishing market access and the closure of The Daily News afternoon newspaper that provided most of the coverage for the industry. The establishment of the Goodform publication and later TABForm was in response to the closure of The Daily News.

A major development plan was implemented, involving all aspects of the WATAB's operations and by 1994 the WATAB's turnover had reached $500 million. For two consecutive years the WATAB had the highest growth of all Australian state TAB's.

New bet types were introduced during this period including Mystery Quartet, Superfecta and Rugby League betting and the WATAB launched Racing Radio, a dedicated racing broadcast service operating from WATAB Head Office. In 1996, the WATAB linked up to South Australia TAB to provide combined pools for Trifecta and Quartet bets.

During the course of 1996 the WATAB reviewed its image and launched its new look, complete with new logo, corporate strategy and Agency design. The process is continuing to this day, with new agencies opening incorporating the new designs and existing agencies being redeveloped.

In 1999 the Bonded Agency agreement was introduced to replace many of the TAB's managed agencies. In 2000 fixed odds sports betting was introduced, this being the most significant product enhancement in the TAB's history. The Government announced a study into the entire racing industry, the result of which was the Turner Report. The most telling of recommendations was for the TAB operations and principal club responsibilities for each code to be conducted within the one entity.

The TAB celebrated its 40th birthday in March 2001.

The Turner Report's outcome was Racing and Wagering Western Australia's (RWWA) introduction in August 2003. The Totalisator Agency Board ceased to exist as a legal entity in January 2004 after nearly 42 years providing wagering services to the public. The TAB brand and operations are now conducted by RWWA. The 2003/04 operating year was the first to exceed $1bn in turnover.

In 2004, the Racing Industry Economic Review was commissioned by RWWA. The report titled "A Plan To Get Back On Track", established a blueprint for the conduct of the industry.