Arena Racing Company (ARC) has made a commitment to bring life back to the betting ring by waiving the fees for all on-course bookmakers for the remainder of 2020.
The pledge follows the government’s announcement that spectators will be allowed to return to live sporting events in tier one and two areas from 2 December.
On-course bookmakers have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with all but a few unable to work since the first lockdown in March. But while it is expected that spectators will be limited for the coming months, the latest move from ARC will likely be a welcome reprieve.
Managing Director of ARC’s Racing Division, Mark Spincer, said: “We were pleased to receive the latest update from Government, and very much look forward to welcoming spectators back to our sites over the coming weeks.
“We await further information regarding regional tiers, and to ascertain which venues we will be able to admit spectators in England, but we are in the process of making sure that racing fans and owners can enjoy the experience of coming racing again as soon as possible, in a safe manner.”
Racecourses in tier one areas will be allowed to admit up to 4,000 spectators, or half of their capacity, whichever is lower. Meanwhile those in tier two can have 2,000 spectators, or again, half of their capacity.
“Whilst racing behind closed doors has been hugely important for the racing industry, we’re acutely aware of the impact that the restrictions of recent months have had on on-course bookmakers,” Spincer added.
“As such, we will waive the entrance and marketing fees for any of ARC’s 52 horseracing meetings from December 2 to the end of the year at which we can admit spectators. Equally, we will look at what we can do from January 2021 onwards to work with and support our colleagues in the betting ring.”
The return of spectators will come as a huge boost for the racing sector, which has come under considerable financial pressure over the last few months due to the lack of racegoers and the closure of betting shops which has resulted in a drop of media rights payments.
The decision to welcome spectators has received the backing of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which has pledged to maintain the highest possible safety standards, protecting local communities from transmission of the virus.
Keith Johnson, a prominent on-course bookmaker, said: “I would like to thank ARC for this support of on-course bookmakers during what has been an incredibly difficult time. This tangible support will be for the benefit of many in the industry, and will be very much appreciated.
“As restrictions are eased, we can start to look to the future with more confidence and work together to bring a bit of a buzz back to the betting ring once more.”