New Zealand’s Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) has begun the search for a new chief executive to replace John Allen, who has announced his intention to step down at the end of this year.

Allen will stay on until the end of the year to support RITA through the next phase of industry reform and to oversee the appointment of a new CEO.

During Allen’s five-year tenure, RITA and the previous New Zealand Racing Board have invested heavily in critical improvements to betting technology and broadcasting capabilities to improve the long-term prospects of New Zealand racing. New race field fees and a point of consumption tax have also been introduced.

“The major programmes of investment are largely completed, creating a strong foundation to grow products for Kiwi punters and profit for the racing industry,” said Allen. “After five years as chief executive it is time to begin the search for a new leader to oversee the transition to TAB NZ.

“This was a difficult decision, but with the racing reforms underway, it’s timely for someone else to lead the TAB and deliver the revenue growth to support a sustainable racing industry.”

RITA chair Dean McKenzie commented: “The innovations overseen by Mr Allen have provided the TAB with a solid foundation for growth to support racing and sport in New Zealand, and the Board is optimistic the investments will deliver the returns the industry needs in coming years.

“We now need to focus on lifting profits, increasing distributions to racing and improving the betting experience for Kiwi punters. Achieving the outcomes set out in the current reform of racing will play an important part of securing a positive future for racing.”

Allen paid tribute to the team at RITA for its support and effort to deliver innovations that he says will have long and lasting benefits for racing.

“It has been a great privilege to hold this position and lead an incredible bunch of people,” he said. “I also want to acknowledge the huge number of people from across the industry, in the codes, club volunteers, the owners and trainers for their support.

“There is significant opportunity ahead for the industry and I am genuinely confident of the future.”