The Totalisator Agency Board, universally shortened to TAB or T.A.B., is the name given to monopoly totalisator organisations in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They operate betting shops and online betting. They were originally government owned, but in Australia most have been privatised. In Victoria, for instance, the Victorian Totalisator Agency Board began operating in March 1961 as a state enterprise, and was privatised in 1994.
History and development
Originally having been run as state government agencies, most Australian TABs have been progressively privatised, beginning with Victoria in 1994 (becoming Tabcorp), and following with New South Wales in 1998 (becoming Tab Limited) and Queensland in 1999 (becoming TAB Queensland Limited, later UniTAB Limited when it merged with the South Australian TAB). Tabcorp and Tab Limited later merged in 2004, followed by UniTAB merging with lotteries operator Tattersall's (to become Tatts Group) in 2006.
TABs in Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania were re-branded as UBET in 2015, as part of a rebranding of the UniTAB division of Tatts Group - replacing both the TAB brand at retail outlets, and a TattsBet brand introduced online. UBET outlets were rebranded back to "TAB" in 2019, using the then-current Tabcorp style branding, in the wake of the merger of Tatts Group with Tabcorp. The Western Australia TAB was established in 1961 and is still state run, currently through state racing regulator Racing and Wagering Western Australia. WA TAB was rebranded TABtouch in 2013.
Current betting provision
Although the state TABs are now all owned by Tabcorp except in Western Australia, due to legislative and other reasons three separate totalisator pools continue to exist in Australia, running mostly along historic operator lines:
- SuperTAB (later S-TAB) for Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and Western Australia (and previously Tasmania before its acquisition by Tatts Group);
- UTAB, for the Tabcorp-acquired markets previously owned by UBET, in Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania; and
- a separate New South Wales-only pool.
Ironically, the presence of three pools have permitted previously fixed-odds bookmakers, competitors to the TAB, to offer products that derive their returns from various totalisator starting prices (typically as best or middle dividend of the three, depending on the bet type), which provides an alternative to SP bookmaking, which is illegal in Australia.
Limited commingling with international pools (including from the New Zealand TAB; see below) does occur, although generally only with one Australian pool (typically SuperTAB); a notable exception is Hong Kong Jockey Club racing, to which both SuperTAB and the NSW pool currently (as of 2022) pool into.
Australian TAB operators in modern times continue to provide totalisator betting on thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing, as well as fixed-odds horse and sports betting. Prior to the latter becoming available in the 1990s and 2000s, totalisator football pools based on rugby league and Australian football were operated in various states; these continue to be operated in New South Wales (covering the National Rugby League), Victoria (covering the Australian Football League), and Western Australia (covering the AFL and additionally Western Australian Football League matches). The number of stand-alone retail outlets has been steadily declining with the advent of integration of TAB services into hotels and clubs, as well as online betting.
The TABs have extensive radio networks in Australia, except in Victoria (racing coverage instead provided via RSN 927, operated by Racing Victoria). All these networks share the National Racing Service, a continuous broadcast of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. This makes up the bulk of these networks' content. Collectively, these networks own more radio licences than any other group in Australia – however, their terrestrial coverage is less than the ABC, as they primarily run on low-power narrowcast licences that have tiny wattages.
Racing coverage still operates, however, on commercial licences in Victoria (RSN, via 3UZ in Melbourne, 3BT in Ballarat and 3SR in Shepparton), Sydney (Sky Sports Radio, via 2KY - having been previously acquired by the NSW TAB via Sky Channel) and Brisbane (RadioTAB, via 4TAB, formerly 4IP).
Tabcorp own a racing television network in Sky Racing; originally acquired by the New South Wales TAB in 1998. This was originally provided (as Sky Channel) to hotels and clubs via satellite, later extending to home subscription TV platforms such as Foxtel, and eventually expanded to two channels to accommodate an increased racing schedule. Sky Racing shows virtually all racing coverage covered by TAB tote markets, although some of this content is now sublicensed from entities such as Racing.com, as well as from the free-to-air TV rights holder of the Melbourne Cup carnival (currently Network 10).
The TAB in New Zealand is the sole legal betting operator located in New Zealand. Bookmaking had been made illegal in New Zealand in 1911, replaced initially by on-course totalisators at thoroughbred and harness racing tracks, and later expanded with authorisation of a TAB in 1949. Notably, modern greyhound racing did not obtain totalisator betting until much later, with on-course so-called "equalisator" betting - with wagering permitted on a random drawn greyhound - permitted effective 1 August 1972, eventually leading to off-course TAB coverage in 1981.
At times the government entity operating the TAB has also regulated the racing codes, such as the 2003 introduction of the New Zealand Racing Board. Following reforms to the operation of the racing industry in New Zealand in 2020, the organisation - now relieved of its regulation of the codes - is once again known as TAB New Zealand.
TAB New Zealand's television service is TAB Trackside, consisting of two channels (previously separately branded Trackside and TAB TV). It commenced in 1992 as Action TV, assuming the Trackside name a year later, and originally operated as a single channel via UHF television - a method also used to broadcast the initial (pre-satellite) incarnation of New Zealand's Sky. However, unlike Sky's channel, Trackside was screened "in the clear" - meaning most New Zealanders could sit at their TV with a standard UHF aerial and watch racing. Since the wind-down and closure of the Sky UHF service, TAB Trackside on conventional television has now been limited to subscription platforms, originally via Sky (including Sky TV services formerly delivered through TelstraClear/Vodafone-owned HFC in certain cities), and more recently also via the streaming service Spark Sport.
The former AM/FM radio service was most recently branded TAB Trackside Radio (previously Radio Trackside). The service had a history tracing back to Radio Pacific, and was later a part-time simulcast of Trackside TV on stations operated by MediaWorks New Zealand (namely the successors to Radio Pacific in BSport and later Radio Live Sport). The stations were sold to the TAB itself by MediaWorks in 2015. This radio network was closed in April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand as racing was suspended. The frequencies were sold later that year to the Australian Sports Entertainment Network to launch general sport radio station SENZ - a localised version of a format used on their stations in Australia (such as SEN 1116). Unlike stations that previously took Radio Trackside part-time, SENZ does not transmit TAB Trackside content; however SEN continue to host an audio stream of TAB Trackside TV.
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The current totalisator service in South Africa is provided by two companies, who commingle their bets into a nation-wide pool:
- The TAB branded service, operated since late 2021 by primary racing operator 4Racing, which operates in all provinces except KwaZulu-Natal, and
- The TABgold branded operation of Gold Circle Racing, the operator of thoroughbred racing in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
The larger TAB operated by 4Racing was previously operated by Phumelela Gaming. Phumelela went into bankruptcy protection in May 2020, partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, however officially continued to operate the TAB while under bankruptcy supervision, until 4Racing was granted operating licences from the Gauteng Gambling Board in November 2021.
These services generally provide totalisator bets on both horse racing and football, as well as fixed-odds sports betting and online casino games. In KwaZulu-Natal, "TAB" has latterly been backronymed for the latter to "Track And Ball", reflecting the increased scope of the TAB beyond operating a horse racing totalisator.
4Racing (and previously Phumelela) operate television services for South African racing known as Racing 240, Global Racing 1 and Global Racing 2, which is made available via subscription primarily through the satellite DStv platform, and online streaming.
- The Melbourne Cup Research Guide
- TABCorp history Archived 24 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- TAB gets a makeover to UBET
- Cameron, Nadia. "What really kept the marketing team behind UBET's rebrand to TAB awake". CMO. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
- "The WA TAB Celebrates 60 Years". Racing and Wagering Western Australia. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
- "Bookies take last bets on New Zealand racecourses: 30 January 1911". New Zealand History. Ministry for Culture and Heritage (New Zealand Government). Retrieved 18 March 2022.
- McLintock, A. H., ed. (1966). "Establishment". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 18 March 2022.; archived by Te Ara, operated by Ministry for Culture and Heritage (New Zealand Government).
- "Racing Act 1971". Act No. 155 of 1971 (PDF). New Zealand Parliament.
- "Listen live to TAB Trackside". SEN. Sports Entertainment Network. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
- "South Africa's Phumelela Gaming enters business rescue". Reuters. 9 May 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
- "4Racing granted operating licences". TAB News. TAB South Africa. 12 November 2021. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
- "4Racing Channels". 4Racing. 4Racing (Pty) Ltd.