UK racing has softened its stance against having any dealings with online bookmakers that haven’t earned the new Authorized Betting Partner (ABP) designation.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced on Tuesday that it would continue to allow affiliate websites to maintain a sponsorship presence at UK racetracks, even if these affiliates steer customers to online betting sites lacking the ABP designation.
In October, the BHA and the industry’s two main racing groups announced that only bookies who’d agreed to give racing a certain percentage of their online race betting revenue would be allowed to maintain racing sponsorship deals. To date, only Bet365, Betfair and 32Red have received official ABP club cards.
At the time of its October announcement, the BHA insisted that affiliate websites that continued to direct punters to non-ABP bookies would also be hit with the sponsorship ban-hammer. This language has since been scrubbed from the BHA’s press release.
The policy switcheroo will have enormous benefits for affiliates like Cheltenham sponsor Racing Post, which promotes UK bookies like Ladbrokes and William Hill, neither of which enjoy ABP status. Online punters’ forum OLBG.com, which also sponsors a Cheltenham event and promotes unapproved bookies, is similarly breathing a little easier today.
The Guardian quoted the BHA’s director of corporate affairs Will Lambe saying that the relaxed policy towards affiliates wasn’t so much a flip-flop but an ‘evolution’ of the ABP initiative, which he described as a work in progress. Lambe said the policy would continue to evolve but, for the moment, the BHA was focusing its efforts on getting more betting operators on board.
The BHA’s announcement came one week after the first crack appeared in racing’s new united front. York racecourse went on record saying it supports the BHA’s general aims and would not accept any sponsorship overtures from bookies with which it didn’t already have a commercial relationship, but York said it would continue to honor deals with its current partners, regardless of their lack of ABP status.