UK bookmakers could lose their ability to sign sponsorships with horseracing operators unless they’re fully paid up on their contributions to the sport.
On Tuesday, the Arena Racing Company and Jockey Club Racecourses issued a joint statement saying they support a plan by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to bar any new commercial relationships between racing and any betting operators who either (a) don’t pay into the current racing Levy scheme or (b) lack a commercial deal under which they make a designated contribution to racing based on their online race betting revenue from UK customers.
BHA CEO Nick Rust welcomed the stance taken by the two racing groups, which control half the UK’s racetracks – including Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom and Newmarket – and nearly 60% of all racing fixtures. Other courses, including York, Goodwood, Ascot and Newbury, have yet to fully sign on to the program but issued their own statement saying they supported a “collaborative and future-proofed approach to racing’s relationship with the betting industry.”
The annual protracted haggling between racing and betting operators over the Levy scheme has become as familiar and unwelcome as discovering all the dog turds on your lawn each spring after the snow melts. In March, the UK government confirmed plans to introduce a Horserace Betting Right to replace the Levy system, but few details have emerged since, possibly because someone alerted them that such a right could violate European Union trade rules.
The BHA said existing racing sponsorships would remain in place until Dec. 31, after which operators who agree to ante up will earn the designation of Authorized Betting Partner. Racing is attempting to make their ultimatum more palatable by suggesting that authorized partners would enjoy certain benefits, including racecourse data, preferential rates for online streaming and the ability to reposition fixtures.
Currently, only Bet365, 32Red and Betfair would meet the BHA’s criteria. The first two firms pay a 10.75% Levy on their UK digital operations while Betfair signed a five-year commercial deal in 2012. Last year, Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill agreed to make voluntary contributions of £4.5m apiece in addition to their land-based Levy payments and the BHA says future commitments would earn the four firms their Authorized Betting Partner status.
A William Hill spokesman said the company was awaiting details on how the proposal would work and the nature of its enforcement mechanisms. SkyBet, which holds major racing sponsorships but contributes nothing to the Levy, said it was too soon to say whether it would seek authorized partner status.