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AN UNEXPECTED fall in the levy — racing’s central funding system — of £17 million in the last financial year has come as a major blow to the industry.
The levy is a percentage of bookmaker profits paid on gross profits to British racing and was reformed in 2017 to include those who operated overseas.
In 2017-18 the levy yield rose to almost £95m — but a series of bad results hit bookmaker profits in the recent period and that, coupled with an expected fall in income due to the reduced minimum bet on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, could have a significant impact, including on prize money.
The news was revealed at a scheduled meeting between Andy Clifton from the Racecourse Association (RCA), Julian Richmond-Watson from The Horsemen’s Group and Nick Rust from the British Horseracing Authority, who form racing’s tripartite leadership.
A spokesman for the tripartite said: “We were shocked to see the big drop in levy yield for 2018/19, which was significantly below the previous forecast at the end of March.
“We share the disappointment that our sport will feel having produced some highly competitive and compelling racing over the past year.
“The bulk of the levy income is distributed as prize money. At a time when there is already significant debate in the industry around levels of prize money, we appreciate that any potential reduction will cause further concern.
“Racecourses, The Horsemen’s Group and the BHA have pledged to work through any implications together. Discussions have already begun about how to minimise the impact over the next year.
“The recent positive reporting from the betting sector on the growing attraction of betting on our sport makes clear that the issue isn’t the popularity of racing as a betting product, but rather its potential profitability.
“As the levy is based on those betting profits, that is clearly concerning for all in racing.
“The government and Parliament have been very supportive of British racing making important and welcome changes to the levy in 2017.
“Like us, they have been waiting to see how these reforms would bed in and what the impact would be on racing’s income.
“We will discuss this with ministers and officials at the next opportunity.”
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