On-course bookmakers in Ireland have warned that they may no longer be able to guarantee their services on tracks following a dispute with the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).
The Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association (INPBA) has said that its members may not offer their services at all Irish race meetings from Tuesday onwards, starting with tomorrow’s meeting in Punchestown.
The dispute has largely been focused upon race planning, the intervals between races, and bookmaker pitching fees, with bookmakers pointing out that negotiations need to take place.
A statement from the INBPA explained: “Race intervals are common place at 35 minutes with eight-race programmes becoming very prevalent. Racecourse attendances have suffered badly, especially at midweek meetings which have caused on-course betting turnover to decline by 75 per cent in the last ten years.
“The decline in turnover and the burden of servicing the additional 55 meetings per year is no longer viable for the on-course market. The increase in the number of race meetings in the last decade has led to a serious decline in the average attendance at fixtures, consequently leaving the betting ring woefully short of customers.
“The racecourses have recognised this trend in dealing with other racecourse business but have refused to reduce the charges to bookmakers who have effectively been told to take it or leave it. Individual bookmakers can no longer sustain these losses and remedial action is necessary if the betting ring is to survive.
“Therefore we give notice that from November 24 a bookmaking service will no longer be guaranteed at all race meetings. We apologise to racegoers – very few alas – that may be inconvenienced and remind the racecourses that the betting ring cannot function without customers.”
The INBPA emphasised that it wished to engage in negotiations with the tracks to encourage more people to go attend midweek fixtures. However, the association explained that it believed a number of race meetings are staged to cater for off-course interests, especially with the fixture list having expanded to 335 meetings in 2019.
“We have to pay five times the admission fee to get into any meeting,” added on-course bookmaker Ray Mulvany. “So if the admission is €20, we have to pay €100 just to stand. We have no problem paying that for the big meetings or at weekends. But at midweek fixtures where attendances are very poor we are looking for changes.
“We’ve been in talks [with AIR and HRI] to explain that things have changed, our industry has changed, and we need some relief. We’ve met three times in the last seven weeks and we’ve been met at all stages with nothing.”