Racing’s long search for a sustainable funding system from betting on the sport may finally be drawing to a close, with the government expected to announce a new regime on Thursday which will capture all bets on British racing, whether these are placed in betting shops or online.
Details of the government’s plans are expected to be unveiled in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, in response to a question tabled by Bob Blackman MP asking what progress has been made “on replacing the current horserace betting levy”.
Racing’s yield from the current Levy system, which is now more than 50 years old, captures only bets placed in Britain’s 9,000 betting shops, and has been declining sharply in recent years as bookmakers have moved their online operations offshore, beyond the Levy’s reach.
If the new funding system can indeed capture offshore betting in addition to traditional cash bets, racing’s income from betting could increase by tens of millions of pounds each year.
If so, the news will be a huge and historic boost to the sport. It will also be seen as a triumph for the British Horseracing Authority, which may finally oversee the arrival of the solid financial foundation for racing which successive ruling bodies and regimes have been seeking for decades.
The BHA’s recent Authorised Betting Partner (ABP) initiative, which has been supported by Jockey Club Racecourses and Arena Racing Company, the country’s biggest racecourse owners, may also have helped to bring the issue to a head by highlighting the flaws in the current system.
Many well-known high street firms, including Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill, Paddy Power and BetFred, have so far refused to agree ABP status, which requires a bookmaker to contribute a percentage of their offshore profits to the Levy.
It now seems that they will be forced into line with firms including Bet365 and Betfair, which have agreed ABP status, to create a level playing field for online operators while also guaranteeing the future funding of the sport which provides a significant part of their income.
Further details of the government’s new scheme may also form part of the Budget on 16 March, which is also the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Source: The Guardian