As any Western Australian is happy to tell you, they do things differently in that part of the country. So it has proven with the state’s decision to hold onto ownership of its TAB a decade or longer than the rest of the federation, who all opted to cash in their chips some time ago.

The process of getting what is reportedly a $1 billion-plus asset on the market has been painfully slow for its suitors, as well as those in the WA racing industry seeking certainty.

It was used as a political football for much of the past decade, prompting heated battles across the parliamentary chamber before legislation finally approved the sale in 2019.

However, while Tabcorp in particular was rubbing its hands as it looked to finally ‘unite the states’ in terms of its parimutuel and retail monopoly, the sale was put on hold in 2020. 

The WA TAB was used as a political football for much of the past decade.

Uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic cited as the reason for the delay, but finally, this week, the bids are in. Unfortunately for Tabcorp, the two-year delay has meant it is a much more competitive market.

The wagering landscape in Australia has become a serious battleground for market share in the post-Covid era and what the WA government determines as its best offer is likely to set the scene for the short-to-medium term future of the Australian wagering industry.

Tabcorp has been a long-time front runner but comes into this process as a company in flux. It has recently been demerged as ‘New Tabcorp’, a media and wagering company, cut adrift from the more profitable lottery arm and handed a remit of remaking its own identity. On Wednesday, it confirmed in its annual results a 5.1 per cent drop in revenue in the wagering and media space, attributing that to the ongoing impacts of COVID late in 2021 and ‘a record number of (race) abandonments’ earlier this year.   

Tabcorp’s chief rival through the WA TAB process was always going to be Entain, which runs the Ladbrokes and Neds brands in Australia. Already entrenched with its credentials in the wagering space, Entain, which put forward a $3.5 billion bid for Tabcorp last year, has pushed itself into the media space in recent times.