British racing reacts to reduced Levy 

17 May 2019 BHA Features Financial/Political

British horseracing’s leaders have initiated an urgent plan of action in response to the Horserace Betting Levy Board’s (HBLB) announcement of a £17 million fall in Levy yield for 2018/19, compared to the previous year.

Details of the fall in yield were presented to racing’s HBLB representatives, Andy Clifton from the Racecourse Association (RCA), Julian Richmond-Watson from The Horsemen’s Group and Nick Rust from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), at a scheduled Board meeting on Tuesday 14 May. HBLB had previously forecast a Levy yield of £89 million for 2018/19.

The next steps are to agree racing’s response to HBLB’s proposal for reducing expenditure by £5million in 2019.

As the majority of HBLB’s spending is on prize money, it is likely that most of the reduction will come in this area. Racing’s leaders have started discussions to agree a process and timetable for making decisions.

A spokesman for racing’s tripartite leadership 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.

“We welcome HBLB’s announcement that it is reviewing how it works with bookmakers. We look forward to seeing their proposals for improving the accuracy of forecasts and growing racing’s income stream in line with growth in betting on racing. We want to understand better from betting operators and HBLB whether any systemic issues are emerging that need to be addressed.

“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.”

Notes to editors:

1. The HBLB press release announcing the drop in Levy can be found here.