Government must decide on horseracing levy size

THE government was forced to step in yesterday to decide the level of funding for British horseracing after the deadline for the industry and bookmakers to come to an agreement passed without striking a deal.

The annual scheme, known as the horseracing levy, sees bookmarkers give up 10 per cent of their profits from horseracing each year towards the maintenance of the sport.

However, bookmakers and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) have been at odds for several months following a campaign by the BHA to see the levy increased.

The levy has declined from £115m three years ago to £75m this year, which the BHA says is the result of bookmakers using loopholes to avoid paying the levy including online betting exchanges to conduct their business.

Bookmakers say reduced levy contributions are the result of people placing fewer bets on horse racing.

Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt will now decide the size of the annual levy but a final decision could take months.

“It’s a big disappointment that the racing and gambling industries have failed to sort this out ­– but frankly the government should never be the last resort in an essentially commercial negotiation,” said Hunt.

“We have therefore announced our intention to remove the role of the secretary of state from determining the levy scheme in future – and I hope this time will be the very last one that I have to be involved.”

Patrick Nixon, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), said the BHA’s call for a levy of £130m this year was unrealistic. He added the government should scrap the levy altogether.

“Racing has to move from its dependency on income support to a proper free-market commercial relationship with the betting industry, as it has with those others to whom it supplies its product,” he said.