In an announcement described as “truly historic” by the British Horseracing Authority’s Chief Executive Nick Rust, British racing will receive a new funding system from next April after the government confirmed its intention to replace the current Horserace Betting Levy.
Under the new model, racing will benefit by being able to recoup charges from bookmaking firms for all bets on the sport, thus closing the loophole which currently exists for operators based offshore and for remote betting through online devices, which accounts for almost 50% of bets placed on horseracing.
“Today’s announcement is one that should prove truly historic,” said Rust. “The new funding model will ensure a fair transfer of funding to British racing based on all betting activity on the sport–a link that was first established in law in 1961. It meets all of racing’s requirements for a new funding model and can bear fruit in 2017, which is crucial given the significant Levy cliff we face.”
The BHA has indicated it will continue with its Authorised Betting Partner scheme in the short term until the new funding mechanism is in place and is set to announce that another major firm has signed up to the scheme in addition to Betfair, Bet365, 32Red and recent signing BetVictor.
Rust continued, “In the longer term, this means greater financial security for the sport, a platform for growth, a huge boost to our participants and more certainty for the tens of thousands of people who rely on racing for their livelihoods. We look forward to working with government on the details of these proposals and to make sure the implementation timetable they have announced today is achieved.”
The Conservative MP Chris Green, whose Bolton West constituency includes Aintree and Haydock racecourses, lodged a question during Thursday morning’s parliamentary session asking when offshore bookmakers would be required to make a financial contribution to British racing. The horseracing and breeding industry in the UK is estimated to have an annual economic impact of £3.5 billion with around 85,000 people earning their living from the sport.
John Whittingdale MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport responded, “My honourable friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the importance of horseracing to this country. I can tell him that our aim is to introduce a new funding arrangement for British Racing by April 2017.”
He added, “We will create a level playing field for British-based and offshore gambling operators and ensure a fair return from all bookmakers to racing, including those based offshore. Racing will be responsible for making decisions on spending the new fund and we will be making further announcements shortly.”
The new legislation will be subject to state aid approval but the BHA has signaled its confidence in gaining this, citing the European Commission’s approval for a French levy on online betting which was granted in 2013.
Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock, who has the key racing town of Newmarket within his West Suffolk constituency, added his support to the announcement, saying, “I am delighted progress has been made on sustainable funding for the horseracing industry. Racing touches the lives of millions, is the nation’s second most watched sport, supports over 85,000 jobs, including many in Newmarket, and has a huge impact on our economy and trade. Yet its finances have been hampered by an outdated levy system for some time. Today’s news is a big step forward, and we need to make progress fast in obtaining European clearance and in restoring the yield to sustainable levels soon.”
Classic-winning trainer William Haggas was another to voice his approval, and commented, “I am delighted with this news, which will help secure the future of our sport and the many jobs within it. Horsemen know that many bookmakers want to grow the sport in collaboration with racing, and I would urge those parties that are still wavering, for example in becoming an ABP, to get on the train fast.”