The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) has boosted its prize money contributions to support the industry as it continues to deal with the financial implications of the coronavirus crisis.
With no crowds on racecourses, nor betting shops open, a drop in prize money was previously considered to be ‘inevitable’. The HBLB has since confirmed that it would boost its prize-money contribution to £16.4 million, an increase of 23%, for the first 10 weeks of the sports’ resumption.
All of the major bookmakers on HBLB’s Betting Liaison Group have agreed to make available to HBLB confidential reports on race by race turnover and gross win on a weekly, rather than the usual monthly, basis. These reports will assist HBLB in determining its funding programme beyond the first ten weeks.
HBLB Chairman Paul Darling said: “We recognise the importance of providing over and above contributions to prize money when racing resumes and are pleased to have been able to meet Racing’s requests in full. Giving a commitment for ten weeks allows the sport to make detailed plans.
“However, while we start from a position of having enough cash reserves to meet these requests, our expenditure in this period will almost certainly exceed our income. HBLB is already expending over £2m a month in maintaining pre-existing grants to various areas, which will continue in addition to the prize money expenditure announced today.
“I would like to thank all those bookmakers that have undertaken to restart their monthly payments on account to us in May. The knowledge that there will be a significant inflow of cash has given us greater assurance in agreeing to the additional sums for prize money. Our funding commitment in turn helps the betting industry as Racing can now put in place an appropriate race programme. We are also grateful to the bookmakers who have offered to provide us with weekly betting data.”
The increase in funding is, on average, hoped to allow ‘minimum prize money levels to remain at just over 80% of the previously permitted minimum levels’. While the increase in contributions has been welcomed by Racing’s Members Committee, it was emphasised that ‘prize money at the mid to lower echelons of the sport should be protected as much as possible’.
Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, said: “British racing’s recovery from the current situation will be dependent on the continuing support of racehorse owners and it is therefore regrettable that, as has also been the case in other jurisdictions, we have had to reduce minimum prize money levels when racing returns.
“We are very grateful for the increased contributions provided by the Horseracing Betting Levy Board which have allowed the sport to mitigate the impact to a certain extent, and agree a strategy that seeks to support the retention of owners and their horses.
“However, even with those, it has not been possible to fully make up for the loss of revenues resulting from racing without crowds or betting shops remaining closed, particularly in the higher classes that were especially dependent on contributions from racecourses and their sponsors.
“The resumption of racing at the beginning of June provides a fantastic opportunity to put British racing into the spotlight and engage the nation with our sport. This can yield benefits in the short term and for years to come. The values will therefore remain under constant review as it is important that they are raised at the earliest possible opportunity.”
The Levy Board will closely monitor the levy revenues generated once racing resumes, and minimum values will remain under review and revert to current levels ‘as soon as circumstances allow’.
David Armstrong, Chief Executive of the RCA, said: “The RCA on behalf of its members welcomes the prize money support provided by the HBLB which is essential in enabling the resumption of racing behind closed doors.
“The operational conditions faced by racecourses to stage racing behind closed doors are complex and we are working hard to be ready for resumption on 1st June. The continuing support by the HBLB to fund the efforts across the sport, including for racecourses, will be essential.”