Newcastle Jockey Club welcome financial boost after difficult year

Chief executive Duane Dowell concedes a top-up payment from Racing NSW and a $1 million property evaluation increase helped keep Newcastle Jockey Club’s challenging 2020-21 financial year in the black.

But above-budget crowds have the club on course for a healthy return in their own right for 2022-23.

The NJC tabled an operating profit of $356,061, compared to $469,104 in 2020-21, at the recent annual general meeting.

Dowell said it was a positive result considering the club were without crowds for two of their most popular meetings of the year – either side of Christmas – because of COVID. He said the NJC would typically make about $150,000 from the meetings.

However, he said the operating figure was a profit only because of a “top-up” contribution from Racing NSW, which recognised the club and its sand-based track taking on extra meetings, especially the Tancred Stakes program in March, during record rainfall.

“It’s been a challenging year obviously for all race clubs, especially the first six months with the effects of COVID,” Dowell said.

“It was a big hit for us, losing crowds at our last two meetings of the year, but Racing NSW have been very good. They recognised that the NJC did a lot of heavy lifting, especially in the autumn, so they were able to supplement some of our revenue outside of what was standard.

“Our racing revenue was down on previous years just because of the effects of COVID, then the wet weather. Wagering was then down and Racing NSW were able to supplement probably all clubs to some degree and make up some of that shortfall.

“The top-up from Racing NSW was probably the difference. It would have been far worse had we not got that, but I believe those rewards were just, with what we were able to do for the industry.”

The club recorded a profit of $787,041, down from $3,292,427 for 2020-21, however the latter figure was inflated by an injection of $2.4 million from the sale of Cessnock Racecourse to Racing NSW. The total comprehensive income was $895,194, compared to $3,555,402 the previous year.

However, 2021-22 totals were boosted by the club’s several investment properties rising $1,005,000 in value.

“There was a $1 million increase, but you also deal with $1.3 million in depreciation each year,” he said.

Dowell said the club has budgeted for a $700,000 operating profit this financial year and they were already ahead of expectations thanks to increased attendances and hospitality revenue in the spring.

The board remained the same after the four elected directors – chairman Geoff Barnett, Brian Judd, Robert Dan and Craig Kimmorley – were returned uncontested.

They now have another two-year tenure.

Also at the AGM, the club voted to create an easier sign-up process for new members.

“One of the key changes, which is about becoming more modern, is it will be a lot simpler membership process now,” Dowell said.

“It was passed through the AGM that new members no longer need a proposer and a seconder. It will be an easier process where you can go online and become a member of the NJC.

“We felt it was becoming a barrier for new members, although our new membership has been fantastic and we’re over 1000 now.”

Craig Kerry, Newcastle Herald

Photo Credit: Simone De Peak