O’Farrell heads Racing Australia, Conroy leads new gambling lobby

Former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell has been appointed the chief executive of Racing Australia, local media reports.

Mr O’Farrell will replace Peter McGauran as the head of the horse racing industry’s peak body on an annual salary of A$350,000.

Mr O’Farrell was most recently known for his inquiry for the federal government into online betting, producing the O’Farrell report, which recommended a crackdown on illegal international operators.

“The government has been greatly aided by Barry O’Farrell’s report. We thank Mr ­O’Farrell for the depth of his understanding of the complex and important issues at stake and his commitment to provide solutions to problems previously regarded as intractable.” said Racing Australia chairman John Messara.

The move came as a surprise to some in the industry, given his non-related credentials.

“From the industry perspective it’s an interesting, and possibly confusing, appointment,” Australian Trainers’ Association chief executive Andrew Nicholl said.

“We have no idea about what skills he’s going to bring to the table and what his background is in terms of racing, but from the ATA’s perspective we welcome him and will work with him for the betterment of the industry.”

Racing Australia said in a statement on Wednesday that O’Farrell would begin the job in late January.

“Mr O’Farrell has a strong background in public administration and financial management. He served with distinction in the NSW Parliament for 20 years, including as NSW premier between 2011 and 2014,” Racing Australia said.

“Over that time Mr O’Farrell managed complex policy, legal and financial issues with a diverse range of stakeholders.

“He is an innovative and experienced leader who will bring his demonstrable skills to the organisation.”

Racing Australia acts as an industry regulator, and also provides fields, form guides and race results for publishers across the country.

In other news, Former Victorian Labor senator Stephen Conroy has been appointed as the head a new gambling industry lobby group – Responsible Wagering Australia, local media reports.

The new body backed by bookmakers CrownBet, Sportsbet, Betfair, Unibet and Bet365, and replaces the recently disbanded Australian Wagering Council which faced a mass exodus of its members this year after it failed to convince the Federal Government not to ban online in-play betting.