The now discontinued Authorised Betting Partner (ABP) scheme initiated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to fill the funding gap left by offshore operators sidelining the old levy scheme raised £12m in its first-and-only year of operation.
According to the BHA’s annual report published at the very end of May, the ABP help fill a revenue gap ahead of the introduction of the new Levy scheme at the beginning of April.
Chief executive Nick Rust said in his introduction that he wanted to say thank you to all the betting partners who entered into the voluntary arrangement. “As well as securing income of more than £12 million, the ABP scheme was an important factor in helping to secure support from government to replace the outdated Levy scheme,’ he said.
“Now that we have a level playing field, we look forward to working closely with all betting operators to grow our sport for our mutual benefit.”
Added to the money from the existing Levy (£61.9), racing had a total of £73.9m to distribute, of which £48.9m went to prize money and bonus schemes, £16.4m went towards regulation and integrity services and a further £2.9m was apportioned towards racecourse fixture incentives, while the remaining £5.7m went on various training, veterinary and other administrative expenses.
In total, eight bookmakers signed up to the ABP over the course of the year including Betfair, bet365, BetVictor and Sky Betting and Gaming.
The BHA was keen to trumpet the degree of involvement on the part of the eight, saying they all actively engaged and grew their horseracing product though their partnership with the industry. “Major new race sponsorships were secured and the sport repackaged some of its assets with the support of its betting partners,” the BHA report said.
The positives for the BHA from the new Levy scheme are that every bet on UK horseracing by UK customers now generates revenue from the sport. The BHA estimates that the new scheme will raise between £85m-£95m in its first year of operation.
Rust suggested that along with other key indicators such as recent rises in the number of horses in training and record racecourse attendances meant there was “good reason to feel optimistic about the future of our sport.”
That optimism is shared by some of the bookmakers that had decided not to participate in ABP scheme. A spokesperson for William Hill agreed that the relationship between racing and betting could likely now be “re-set” now that the argument regarding long-term funding and the Levy were effectively settled.
“We have a new chief executive, in Philip Bowcock, and we are keen to get down to business,” they said, adding that the appointment of Andy Clifton as the new racing director at the Racecourse Association (RCA) also boded well for the relationship between the two industries given his background working previously at Ladbrokes as well as the Hong Kong Jockey Club before he joined his current post as head of communications at Newbury Racecourse.
However, it isn’t destined to be wholly plain sailing from this point onwards. Despite the European Commission giving the nod to the deal in April, there remains the possibility of legal action over whether the levy breaches EU state aid rules before the UK crashes out of the Union in March 2019.
Writing ahead do this week’s general election in the UK, a note from law firm CMS and gambling consultancy Regulus Partners, noted that the Levy measures remained “controversial” and even without any legal challenges either domestic or European, it remained to be seen whether the new arrangements would “bed in” particular with tears to potential moves to remove the Levy board from the equation and form a new body to be called the Racing Authority.
“Given how stalled the process of levy reform has been historically notwithstanding this development, it cannot be guaranteed that these further changes will ever see the light of day,” the CMS and Regulus report authors added.
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