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Bookmaker and Levy Board talks deadlocked.

Byline: Howard Wright

NEGOTIATIONS on the next levy scheme are stuck at stalemate, just 24 days before the deadline for agreement between the Bookmakers' Committee and the rest of the Levy Board, writes Howard Wright.

If a deal cannot be struck by midnight on October 31, the issue will be referred to the government for the second year running and the scheme for 2009-10 determined on behalf of sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, who has made it plain to all sides that he is not relishing the prospect.

However, there was no sign of white smoke over Newmarket when Levy Board members convened for a special meeting during racing last Friday, when, by chance, the sports minister was in town and at the races.

The Bookmakers' Committee, which is obliged by statute to set the framework for discussion, has put in a submission based around the ten per cent levy deduction from off-course betting's gross profits on UK horseracing.

However, there is also provision for a rebate of pounds 2,000 per betting shop to account for escalating costs arising from such as TurfTV, Gambling Commission fees and the economic downturn.

Levy Board member and Racehorse Owners' Association president Paul Dixon confirmed yesterday that the remainder of the board is adamant terms should be rolled over for 2009-10, to allow further discussions with the bookmakers on the levy and other issues.

He said: "If the economy is down, racing suffers along with the bookmakers, because their gross profits fall and so the amount of levy falls. The statute says it's a ten per cent deduction, so we can't mess about with the details to get it down to 8.6 per cent, or whatever the bookmakers want."

Dixon added: "Racing's of one mind here. Let's roll over the levy terms, and we'll work with the bookmakers on finding ways to grow the horserace betting cake.

"It's not our fault that the bookmakers didn't engage in talks on the next levy scheme all summer because they were waiting for the result of the Turf TV court case - a case they lost hands down."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 7, 2008
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