Gambling review: what is it and what does it mean for racing and the horse world?

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  • Uncertainty over gambling reforms is causing a headache for British racing as it attempts to plan for the future. A Government white paper on a review of gambling legislation – which has been due for months – is now expected imminently.

    The concerns centre on affordability checks and thresholds – in short, proof that the person betting can afford to do so – and whether these will be prohibitive to non-problem gambling, which could in turn have a knock-on impact to the sport and its finances.

    The topic came up at the Horseracing Industry Conference (30 June), hosted at Newbury racecourse by the University of Liverpool and the Racing Foundation.

    Incoming British Horseracing Authority chairman Joe Saumarez Smith said that measures applied by the Gambling Commission, such as some affordability checks, before anyone knows what will be in that white paper, are already having an impact.

    “I think we are quite worried [about what the white paper will contain], particularly because of the delay in publishing it. We need certainty to make policy,” he said.

    “That [the sanctions applied by the Gambling Commission] is already having an effect on levy and media rights payments. We are seeing that in the returns for April and May. It is a big threat to the industry’s revenue.”

    David Zeffman, head of gambling and sport at CMS London, added: “If the threshold is set at a low level, more customers will be asked for [financial proof] and the concern is people will either stop betting or go to black-market operators. In either case, that is going to lead to a reduction in the levy and the revenues of the bookmakers, and one can assume they will be more reluctant to pay what they pay for media rights.”

    Figures from the Betting & Gaming Council show British racing receives £350 million a year through the levy, media rights and sponsorship. The wider equestrian world benefits from gambling, which is why any changes to laws or restrictions that may come in are relevant for the horse world to take note of.

    National Lottery funding supports British equestrian sport and racing’s levy is a major funder of veterinary research and disease monitoring that benefit the entire UK herd.

    The levy is funded by a percentage of bookmakers’ gross profits, which are spent on benefiting the sport and its horses. Since 2002, the Horserace Betting Levy Board has applied more than £39 million to equine veterinary science and education.

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