UK bookmakers Betfred are scrapping their racing sponsorships and closing their on-course betting windows based on founder Fred Done’s belief that the company’s “association with racing is broken.”
On Wednesday, the Racing Post broke the news that Betfred would end virtually all of its commercial relationships with racing following the July 2018 expiration of the company’s exclusive pool betting deal. Done said his company “will fulfill everything we promise” until its current obligations are met, but after that, basta.
The changes will see Betfred close 49 of its 51 on-course betting shops, and also affects nearly £6m in sponsorship income covering over 600 races. The only exceptions to these curbs will be at Ascot, with which Betfred inked a pool betting deal in April, and Chelmsford, which Betfred owns. Done said several courses were “really disappointed” by his plans to leave, “but I won’t stay where I’m not wanted.”
In 2011, Betfred paid £233m to win the exclusive right to offer Tote betting on UK racing, but by 2015, Done said dealings between racing and betting businesses were “worse than they’ve ever been.” The following year, UK racing stakeholders began publicly musing about launching their own Tote alternative when Betfred’s monopoly expired, a plan that 54 courses have since agreed to put into action next July.
Contributing to the schism was the annual bickering over how much UK bookies would contribute to the racing Levy, and the 2015 arrival of the Authorized Betting Partners scheme, which restricted racing sponsorships to operators who agreed to return a greater amount of their online race betting revenue to the sport. Betfred was a defiant holdout to the ABP scheme.
Both the Levy and the ABP scheme were rendered moot after the UK government announced it would impose a new uniform 10% charge on land-based and online race betting revenue, but Done told the Post that racing has “never forgiven” him for winning the Tote contract, despite Betfred returning £3m more per year to racing than the contract stipulated.
Done told the Post that he regretted that his company “will be finished” with racing next year, but briefly echoing Michael Corleone, said that view was “not business, it’s sentimental … As from next year, racing and Betfred have got to learn to live without each other.”