Leading bookmaker hits out on government plans, warning of "consequences for the sector"

Oliver Gill
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Chepstow Races
Dark clouds for bookmakers? The levy is set to be introduced from April 2017 (Source: Getty)

One of Britain's largest bookmakers has criticised government plans to take 10 per cent of gambling firms horse racing profits to fund the sport.

Ladbrokes Coral, which runs over 4,000 betting shops across the UK, said the proposals "will have consequences for the sector".

The department of culture, media and sport today announced an amendment to laws dating back to 1961 for bookies to pay a levy to help financially support horse racing.

Read more: Horse racing gets "critical" multi-million pound boost from levy

Offshore firms are currently not obliged to pay the levy. But under the plans revealed by sports minister Tracey Crouch, from April all gambling firms will be forced to pay over 10 per cent of profits over £500,000.

In a prepared statement in the wake of the news, Ladbrokes Coral said:

On its own, people may it looks fair but in the round with cost escalation in the levy, shop pictures, streaming rights and advertising, the sport is in danger of pricing itself out of friends.

The 10 per cent rate will have consequences for the sector and while some will argue it may be good for racing, others will realise that it won't be good for the betting industry, its employees and ultimately the sports that we help fund.

Read more: William Hill shares drop as it reveals £20m profit hit

Meanwhile, a statement from the Association of British Bookmakers echoed Ladbrokes Coral's worries. It said: "We continue to be concerned at the cumulative impact on the high street betting industry of increasing costs, especially in areas such as media rights, taxation and regulation."

Significant uplift

Earlier today, however, the government and horse racing bodies hailed the levy.

"This is critical to the future health of British racing,” said British Horseracing Authority chief exec Nick Rust, adding the levy would provide a "significant uplift in the sport’s central funding".

Meanwhile Crouch added:

This move will help secure the future of horse racing in Britain by making sure that gambling firms pay a fair return to support the sport.

Read more: Shares in major betting companies fall as MPs criticise gambling machines

The news was a further kick in the teeth for William Hill, which revealed full-year group profit would be lower than expected. The bookmaker blamed a number of unfavourable football and horse racing results for the figures to be around £20m lower than previously anticipated.

Reflecting on the government plans, William Hill spokesperson Ciaran O’Brien said: "This follows a decade of significant increases in media rights income from the betting industry and William Hill will input to the process as appropriate."

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