Racing, betting industries hopeful of levy deal

Last Updated: Nov 01, 2011, 10:07 AM IST

London: A deal to determine the level of British bookmakers` annual contribution to the horseracing industry is likely to be struck ahead of midnight deadline, Jockey Club CEO Simon Bazalgette told delegates at a sport business conference.

"I think the odds are on a deal happening. I suspect it will be closer to midnight than midday. There`s the shape of a deal that`s coming together," Bazalgette said at the Sport and the City: Horse Racing conference in London.

Bazalgette, whose organisation owns Cheltenham, Aintree, Newmarket and Epsom racecourses, said both the racing and bookmaking industries wanted to avoid a repeat of the government having to intervene to secure an agreement -- as was the case last year when the two sides hit a deadlock.

"Neither the racing side or the betting side really wants it to go to the Secretary of State. From a political point of view that`s not good for us," Bazalgette said.

Britain`s second biggest bookmaker Ladbrokes also said it was hopeful a deal could be struck.

"We are hopeful that an agreement will be reached without recourse to the minister. The gap between the two sides is not as sizeable as in previous years," a Ladbrokes spokesman said.

Britain`s horseracing industry is paid the levy each year by bookmakers including listed companies such as Ladbrokes and William Hill. The two industries negotiate the level of the payment and, if they cannot reach agreement, the government intervenes to help hammer out an arrangement.

The levy, which is based on a percentage of the gross win made by bookmakers on the sport, has funded horseracing for 50 years but is regarded as outdated by both industries.

The overall amount paid to racing has fallen significantly in recent years because of bookmakers moving their operations offshore and, therefore, avoiding having to pay the levy on bets placed on British races. That has angered the racing industry.

Gambling companies, on the other hand, have argued they now fund racing through additional channels, including paying for television pictures and sponsorship deals.

Last year, the government instructed bookmakers to pay 10.75 percent of their gross profits to racing, up from the usual 10 percent.

The government is consulting with both sides over establishing a viable alternative to the levy for future years.

Gambling Minister John Penrose told Reuters earlier in October he was "cautiously optimistic" a replacement could be found which would remove the need for government intervention in the process.

Bureau Report