All on course for Sunday
With the Mumbai racing season set to start from Sunday, November 18, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) is facing some serious issues from renewal of the land lease by BMC to the exorbitant betting tax levied by the state government that has crippled the Tote to the horse owners dissatisfied with the level of stakes money on offer
Vivek Jain, chairman of the club who also doubles up as its marketing chief, takes these disconcerting questions head on in an exclusive chat with MiD DAY.
Q: What are the most positive features of the upcoming season?
A: Progress on sponsorships, prize money, benefits to owners and the first touches of infrastructure upgrade--despite the constraints faced by the club.
Q. Is it true that your traditional sponsors have backed off? If so, what are the reasons?
A : Virtually all our traditional sponsors are back again, besides several new ones. The only prominent withdrawal is that of the Umrigar family for the Karl Umrigar Turf Championship, and I would like to refrain from commenting on the possible reasons for that. In spite of a significant cut in budgets across the board, our cumulative contributions for the season will cross 7.5 crore, and that’s no mean achievement.
Q. It is said the RWITC is giving out the poorest stakes money unbecoming of a premier club. Comment.
A: You have to cut the cloth according to your size, and the club is in the red due to reasons beyond our control. Yet, our cumulative expected payout for the season, at over 21 crore will be the highest for a single season of racing anywhere in India. We have rewarded owners by a) reimbursing maintenance fees of Rs 1,000 per month per horse (annual benefit 1.6 crores), reimbursing the new levy of service tax on stakes (benefit 3.5 cr+ a year), performance bonus of 25% on stakes (paid net to the owners, 2.5 crores per year), plus a fresh sanction of increase in stakes by about 2 crores per year. These are substantial sanctions given, and neglected to be highlighted by our dissidents, who are quick to shoot off the hip, without knowing the facts.
Q. Is anything happening on the tax issue?
A: Yes, I believe our representation has been cleared by the Revenue department, and will go through Law and Judiciary and then to the Cabinet. The positive is that senior bureaucrats share our rationale, the negative side is the time it is taking to see it through.
Q: How do you look at the lease issue which is only some months away now?
A: The lease expires on May 31, 2013. Initial meetings with senior officials in the BMC have been positive. The terms will change under certain heads, and the financial impact not clear at this stage, but yes the lease will likely be renewed, without much ado.