In response to MP Philip Davies’ comments in the Racing Post (11 November 2010), British Horseracing Authority Chairman Paul Roy said:
“It was a surprise to read Philip Davies’ comments first in the Racing Post, and disappointing that he had not approached us directly as we would welcome his constructive support on addressing this vital and complex issue for Racing. Nonetheless, he may simultaneously wish to reflect on the actions of the betting industry whose cause he advocates so forcefully, and their position that Racing’s Levy yield should drop further to under £50m as they continue to exploit the loopholes in our crucial funding structure for the sport.
“British Horseracing, represented by the Horsemen and Racecourses, has been speaking to Government privately, through us, in order to assist Government deliver on its very clearly stated policy objectives.
“As the Chancellor said in June, those objectives are “resolving the future of the Tote in a way that secures value for the taxpayer while recognising the support the Tote currently provides the racing industry”.
“The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport gave some clarification as to what that meant when he said the following to Mr Davies in a Select Committee exchange in September this year: “We have no desire to keep the Tote as part of the public sector. We recognise that it employs 4,500 people. It gives £11 million a year to racing, which is important income for the racing industry. So we’re looking to find a way whereby we can transition the Tote out of the public sector, as it is now, but in a way that maintains – perhaps in a different way – the support that the Tote has always given to the racing world”.
“That is the clear commitment from this Government, and we look forward to Mr Davies and his colleagues delivering on it. Everyone knows that the Tote is a diverse business, which pays its profits to support racing, and resolving its future is a complex issue.
“This Government has rightly sought to avoid the car crashes that have been the story for too many years. Racing’s focus is to ensure that the Tote will continue to provide for the sport at every level as it has done throughout its history. Our discussions with Government have been positive and we have welcomed various public comments from the Government dictating that whatever process is followed, the outcome must benefit racing.
“Mr Davies makes a leap to a ‘sale’, without saying what might be sold, if anything. Certainly you will not see any of the statements of the Chancellor, the Secretary of State or the Minister using the word ‘sale’. The Labour Government did not transfer the Tote to state ownership in 2004, as erroneously stated in the Racing Post article, and the position remains that the Government does not own the Tote, has never put a penny in, and never taken a penny out.
“The last Government was going to nationalise the Tote to give it lock, stock and barrel to a Racing Trust, as part of a packaged set of reforms that included replacing the Levy with a new right that anyone in Europe wanting to offer a bet on British Racing would have had to have bought. Both of these failed due to European interference. I am sure Mr Davies would agree that the intent of the package was right, and that European intervention should not deflect this Government from doing what is right for British Racing. I am also confident that Mr Davies is not in the business of supporting his Government nationalising businesses in which they have never had an interest, and creating havoc in the funding of the sport by doing so.
“Now that the Levy determination has also passed to the Secretary of State, he has a unique opportunity to deal with the many issues that should have been addressed years ago, to ensure fair funding for racing from betting, from as broad a base as possible. The continuing support of the Tote for British Racing is a major part of that.
“This Government knows these are complex issues, and it should be no wonder that they are keeping all options open. The approach to the market over the next few weeks will be a very useful way of flushing out ideas from others as to how to achieve Government’s objectives.
“We are continuing our dialogue with the Government and wish to work closely with them as the current processes advance.”