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Christmas boxes and BOLA musical chairs.

HOME OFFICE officials have left an intriguing Christmas box on the doorsteps of the Big Three bookmakers. Oddly enough, the self-same gift delivered to the BOLA office appears to be giving off a ticking noise.

By reviewing the composition of the Bookmakers' Committee, the body which tells the Levy Board each year how much the betting industry would like to contribute to racing's finances, the Home Office has come up with recommendations which have a neat and tidy appearance.

Bring in Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes, they say, because these firms contribute more than 80 per cent to the annual levy by way of their customers. Give everybody two seats on the 12-strong committee, they suggest, because that will even up the balance between the big bookmakers and their smaller brethren.

Nothing could be simpler, or more equitable. The Big Three can have their proper say, without dominating those who might not have the same clout in the turnover stakes.

The smaller firms, including one-man independents, are still on board, without threatening to make a deal that would not suit the major players.

But wait a minute. Aren't Coral, Hills and Ladbrokes members of BOLA, with a place on that body's council?

BOLA has six seats on the Bookmakers' Committee at the moment. The Home Office recommendation is that the number should be cut to two.

But if Coral, Hills and Ladbrokes come on board, toeing the party line, that would give BOLA eight votes, two more than it has already, and twice as many as the rest-NAB and the BBOA-put together.

Should anyone see a fly on the wall at the next BOLA council meeting, they might be advised to check it for a bugging device, because the debate is likely to be engaging.

As for that ticking noise, it might be something more than a clockwork mouse that the Home Office has delivered.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Wright, Howard
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 11, 1998
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