Photo: Steve Nash

Mark Bird GBGB: Greyhound racing cannot fix welfare issues without increased bookmaker funding

Mark Bird the MD of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) has penned an open letter to Paul Darling, Chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) and Clive Hawkswood, leader of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), urging the industry figureheads to support further funding measures for sustaining UK greyhound racing.

Bird states that greyhound racing faces a funding crisis, which threatens the Greyhound Board’s ability to maintain its welfare and integrity commitments.

Leading GBGB, Bird details that greyhound racing’s voluntary betting levy for UK bookmakers is falling way short of funding the sport’s welfare requirements.

“As has been well documented, the BGRF’s income has declined from circa £14 million in 2008 (£17 million in today’s terms) to £7.2 million in 2017, reflecting the migration of betting turnover from retail to online and mobile platforms.”

“Until this year, with the notable exception of bet365, none of the major Bookmaker companies have included the turnover of their online betting operations in their voluntary contributions. In addition, some major betting companies do not pay any voluntary levy, or only pay it on part of their estate.”

Bird and greyhound racing stakeholders have presented evidence to a government select committee on ‘Greyhound Welfare’. In its findings, the government called for UK bookmakers to increase their voluntary payments, and expand contributions from online betting services.

Despite government pressure, to date only Ladbrokes-Coral, Jennings Bet and bet365 have committed to extending their voluntary levy contributions.

Supporting its welfare mandate, GBGB has published its ‘Greyhound Commitment’, which details a 5-year plan to improve the sports all-around programs, racetrack conditions and support structures for all stakeholders (trainers, racetrack operators, owners, animals).

“Unfortunately, these enhanced welfare initiatives and commitments require significant levels of funding and can only go ahead if there is more money available coming into the Industry from the Bookmakers”.

Leading industry trade bodies, the ABB and RGA, Bird urges Darling and Hawkswood to support GBGB’s funding appeal with a view to significantly increase the funds and contributions made by all licensed UK bookmakers.

“We would urge all of your members to consider their responsibility to the industry and to provide adequate financial support to underpin the sport of greyhound racing in the UK in order that the GBGB can carry out its commitments to Government, the sport’s stakeholders and most of all the greyhounds.”

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