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South Africa blocks Phumelela deal; reaction to UK racing’s move to Channel 4

TAGs: channel 4, horseracing, Phumelela, PMU, South Africa

phumelela-south-africa-channel-4-racing-dealSouth Africa’s Competition Commission has blocked the proposed takeover of horseracing/tote betting outfit Gold Circle’s Western Cape (WC) operations by rival firm Phumelela Gaming & Leisure Ltd. The deal would have left Gold Circle operating only in KwaZulu-Natal province, whereas Phumelela’s operations would span eight of the country’s nine provinces. The Commission concluded that such an arrangement would “significantly lessen competition in the horseracing administration, horseracing television rights as well as the betting markets.” While the two parties had maintained that the deal would have preserved Gold Circle WC jobs, the Commission determined that the company was in no immediate threat of collapse and other potential buyers were already sniffing around.

In France, a newly formed government committee is to consider the nation’s racing industry, including the percentage racing receives from licensed betting operators. The two national racing bodies – France Galop and Cheval Francais – currently reap 8% of betting pools, while 85% is returned to punters. Racing Post reports the committee will include members of the Ministries of Budget and Agriculture, while former state-run monopoly Pari-Mutuel Urbain will be the only operator sitting at the table.

In the UK, the end of the six-decade relationship between racing and the BBC is getting a mixed reaction from bookies. Channel 4 recently paid £15m for exclusive television rights for such UK fixtures as John Smith’s Grand National from Aintree, the Investec Derby festival in Epsom, Royal Ascot and Qipco British Champions Day from Ascot. Channel 4’s deal is for four years starting in 2013. While most UK bookmakers are grateful that racing’s high-profile events will continue to be broadcast to the masses via terrestrial TV, 32Red CEO Ed Ware told Gambling Compliance the Grand National audience “is going to drop on Channel 4. Their product is excellent, but… if you want the highest number of eyeballs, you want to be on the BBC.” Coral spokesman David Stevens took a more measured approach, saying only time would tell whether racing would be better or worse off for the move, but that “at this stage we do not have any concerns.”

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