The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) has confirmed that reserves held to support the sport through difficult times will be 40% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
Reported by The Guardian, the Board’s chief executive Alan Delmonte revealed that reserves are predicted to be around £30 million by the end of December, having been around £50 million in March.
“That shows you what’s happened to them in the nine months to the end of this year. That’s the sort of call that’s been made on them,” Delmonte told The Guardian.
It highlights the growing pressure on the sport to allow crowds to return. Last month, HBLB made a ‘substantial increase’ in its prize money for the remainder of the year, with allocations said to rise by 50%.
Delmonte acknowledged that if there wasn’t a marked improvement in the current situation for racing, then things would become ‘very difficult’. Discussing how the levy figures have fluctuated in recent years, the HBLB CEO said: “The highest that they’ve been in recent times is probably where they were just before Covid started.
“That figure of £30m sounds quite healthy but there’s a world of difference between £30m with the arrow pointing upwards and the same figure when the arrow’s pointing downwards. We’ve always said we don’t want to be in a position where we ourselves are starting to worry about where the next pound is coming from because the effect that it has on industry confidence is quite significant, so we don’t want to over-commit.”
Looking forward, Delmonte said that racing must gain clarity from racecourses over prize money contributions, as well as ‘a return to some sort of paying crowds on a sustainable basis, which helps to make the racecourse contributions possible’.
Highlighting that betting turnover figures have been encouraging since racing’s resumption in June, Delmonte said. “But that can’t be assumed to continue, in an environment where we know that the furlough scheme is coming to an end in the autumn. You just don’t know what the effect will be on consumer spending and confidence.”
HBLB’s decision to increase prize money commitment will help get total prize money to approximately two-thirds of the normal level for the final third of the year.
Delmonte concluded: “No one is suggesting that’s enough in the longer term to maintain owner interest and confidence but that’s the sort of ball park that we’ve had in mind. If you get to two-thirds of the normal and you’ve managed to restore the minimum prize money values throughout the sport at every class except for the very top, which is 75% of the norm, that at least gives you something where you can say, there’s a structure, there’s an aspiration and people can see where we’re trying to get to.
“But that just buys you four months with the hope that things start to turn the corner in early 2021.”