The gambling industry is under further scrutiny as the Gambling Act review reaches its first staging post this month, with reforms afoot. With the industry in flux and racing looking to put its finances on a stable footing, we should be working with bookmakers to see how racing’s revenues from betting, especially to horsemen, can be protected now and expanded in the future.
It seems like racing has its work cut out at the moment, valiantly pushing to keep the sport moving forward as the hope for a return to normality grows on the horizon. Each month brings a new but familiar challenge, whether it is racing’s revenue and the gambling industry or the return of spectators. Covid-related or not, the challenges remain and they need solving.
Racing derives significant revenue from betting. Whether it is through levy contributions, picture and data rights exploitation, or sponsorship and hospitality, most originate from the bookmaking industry. Last month, I spoke about the Gambling Commission’s affordability consultation. This month, the government’s Gambling Act review will conclude its wide-ranging consultation, which could also see further changes for the industry.
The gambling industry is facing serious challenges to the way it operates, which could have a profound impact on the revenues that flow to owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff and racecourses. Our relationship with the betting industry is a top priority.
Betting and racing have an undeniable symbiosis, from a flutter on track during a day out to how betting revenues directly impact on funding through the Levy Board. Like it or not, racing and betting’s fortunes are entangled. As we both face challenges, we need to work together.
We continue to be supportive of the gambling industry. We have been clear in our support for ensuring best practice and responsible gambling in that it represents the vast majority of the sector and their operations. So too have we determinedly put across our views on egregious and undue regulation on an important sector for both our sport and the Exchequer.
“Reform of the levy is now more important than ever and would be a powerful tool to boost revenue”
Even more so, the product of racing has changed and adapted to the betting industry’s needs, with more runners and meetings than ever before. British racing is an incredibly attractive product for both punters and bookmakers alike that needs to be protected and supported, especially with the impacts of Brexit and Covid playing out. We can work together to further enhance the product – be it start times, race numbers or competitiveness – and help grow the revenues coming into the sport.
Betting is also changing. As it changes its relationship and contribution to racing must do likewise. As racing adapts and works with gambling, so must the bookmakers work with and for racing. With Covid, online has replaced shops as the favoured mode of placing racing bets. Betting on apps and streaming racing is clearly the future. Meanwhile, unlike our French and Irish counterparts, British racing still sees no return on bets made by British customers on international racing.
The levy and bookmakers’ other contributions, such as media rights, need to reflect the new reality. Reform of the levy is now more important than ever and, voluntary or otherwise, would be a powerful tool to boost racing’s revenue from betting and offer stability and growth for racing and its participants.
As racing looks at these mechanisms and its future, there needs to be a productive, two-way conversation with the gambling industry on how it can better support the whole of racing now and in the future. We can hopefully find a solution that enables us to grow the sport for all, rather than divvying up bits of a shrinking pot. As with so much else during this pandemic, it will require determination, mutual understanding and a willingness to look at the bigger picture.
By seeking consensus, both within the industry as well as with the bookmakers, we can avoid the government’s hand. With everything else going on, I am sure that is something the betting industry would welcome. There are shifting sands throughout the racing and betting industries. For racing, the protection of its future and its revenue streams for participants is vital. There is a clear need to work together: it’s time to talk.