Excerpt from British Horseracing Authority Chairman Paul Roy’s speech at the annual dinner of the All Party Racing and Bloodstock Industries Group in the House of Commons on 14 July 2008.
It’s now four months Gerry, since you chaired the first meeting of the Levy Review Group, under the auspices of the All Party Review Group, assisted by the Levy Board, following the commitment made at our conference to ensuring that the Levy is made fit for purpose.
Racing has given full commitment to this review process.
We’ve worked closely together so that we speak with one voice, a consistent voice.
Progress has been made. You charged us, and the wider group, with securing a modernisation of the Levy arrangements and understandably, finding a structure that removes the Government from having to act as final arbiter.
As you said recently Minister, “Racing has to stand on its own two feet”. Well, that has been the sport’s aim for a long time now. And we’ve been working tirelessly to achieve this.
We have, I believe, identified viable alternative options.
One is based on a modernised Levy mechanism that would see a Determination referred to an independent tribunal should no agreement be reached.
The second proposal is for alternative legislation that would give Racing a statutory right to charge for the use of our product. It means that any betting operator taking a bet on British horseracing would have to have entered into a commercial agreement to do so.
Racing made a strong case in our Determination submission. We still believe passionately that the current Levy undervalues our product. It’s a claim we’re confident of. That’s why we’re ready and willing to submit that case to a commercial process under a modernised Levy or to an independent tribunal.
But both these options require varying degrees of primary and secondary legislation. Details of these proposals are now before the Levy Board and your Department for your full review.
In the meantime, we must work within the structures that we have; and review how effective they are. In this regard, there are some aspects of the current review that give us cause for concern. All involve areas which you made clear were part of the review, but to date no detailed examination of their involvement within the Levy determining process has taken place.
– A review of the contribution made to Racing by betting exchanges.
– The status and payment obligation of operators who base themselves overseas so that they pay no levy on bets they offer to British punters on British racing.
– And, the relationship between FOBTs and racing.
Taking just one element of betting exchanges in particular, we strongly believe that there are professionals posing as amateurs on these platforms. People are pursuing betting activity in the course of business, and not paying a levy, nor indeed tax. Traditional betting operators are being discriminated against. Even the Chairman of the Bookmakers’ Committee agrees we should be taking action against the exchanges but he is politically constrained by the current constitution of the Committee.
If I can leave you with one request tonight Minister, it’s that the reviews you promised on these subjects commence immediately – before the summer recess and attention turns to the Olympics in Beijing.
Now I’d like to take this opportunity to set out formally to you Minister, and to the All Party Racing Group, Racing’s intentions ahead of the next Determination process for the 48th Levy.
The starting point here should be to stress that all sides involved recognise the clear need to avoid the matter ending up on your desk again this autumn. This much was made clear earlier this month at the last All Party Group meeting, and is our overriding aim.
The extent of the Review work which has not been launched, never mind finished, means that we cannot have anything new in place in time to influence this year’s Determination process.
Racing is therefore proposing that all sides agree that this year’s scheme is based on a roll-over of last year’s scheme. But I must underline that this is only with the very clear proviso that all of the review work underway on modernisation, and that which needs to start on overseas betting, betting exchanges and FOBTs, continues apace.
If this happens, Racing will be able to support a roll-over as we’ll be confident that the issues that must be reviewed do not need a Determination to make that take place.