BYO change welcomed by racing clubs

Small harness racing clubs are welcoming a recent change to the country's drinking laws.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Exemption for Race Meetings) Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament last week.

"It will mean race-goers and punters can take a bottle of wine or beer to the races at clubs with three or fewer meetings in a calendar year," says the Bill's backer, National's Racing spokesperson and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie.

“This Bill eliminates any ambiguity about the legality of BYO at race meetings."

“Rural clubs in particular will benefit from this change in law."

And clubs like the Central Otago Trotting Club agree.

For Club president Graham Sinnamon it's a "relief more than anything."

"We have been working on this for the past seven years."

The club has its one and only meeting every year at Omakau in January. It is hugely popular especially among holiday-makers, with thousands flocking to the race day

"People who turn up on the day won't actually notice any difference whatsoever," says Sinnamon, "but it is important for the club because under this act we can now advertise that this is a BYO race meeting whereas before we couldn't."

That's not to say people couldn't bring their alcohol to the race  day before. They could, but it was not advertised by the club. To be clear , BYO as such is not against the law .

The sticking point is section 235 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol which refers to a term known as "places of resort ".

According to the police a lawful gathering can become a 'place of resort' when :

- People gather specifically to drink
- Drinking reaches a certain threshold of intensity
- or the BYO aspect is 'actively facilitated' (e.g. explicitly advertised, encouraged or managed).

“I do not believe Omakau or any other race meeting can be considered as a place of resort, but this new amendment to the act safeguards clubs from any doubt", says Sinnamon, "as the Bill was, we could have faced substantial fines, if found guilty “.

"Now that threat has been legislated away “.

Sinnamon says the club takes its host responsibilities very seriously, and they will continue to do so.

"We have a very good track record at Omakau with breath testing as well as serving alcohol responsibly and providing non-alcoholic options as well as a huge range of food options for patrons."

"We have never had a single arrest at our race day."

From McKelvie's perspective it's a victory for common sense.

“This law will help preserve the Kiwi tradition of enjoying a family picnic in the back of the car and having a great day out."

The Central Otago Trotting Club's next meeting at Omakau is set down for January 2, 2024.


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