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Will exists for a levy replacement, now we need to find a way.

Byline: BILL BARBER

THERE has been plenty of good news about prize-money in recent weeks with racecourses as diverse as Aintree, York and Plumpton announcing how much they are going to boost what they offer to owners and trainers in 2013. However, the search for a new and better way to finance the sport continues. A week today the Offshore Gambling Bill, which seeks to ensure bookmakers based in Gibraltar and the like pay levy, is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons. Introduced by Newmarket's MP Matthew Hancock, the private members' bill has been passed on to his Conservative colleague Anne McIntosh - the member for another racing. stronghold in Thirsk and Malton - following Hancock's promotion in the last reshuffle. The bill is similar to the one introduced by the DCMS last month to license betting on a point of consumption basis, only with the provision that levy be payable added on. The BHA has been doing some work with McIntosh, but private members' bills rarely make it all the way to the statute book and there would doubtless be a challenge on state aid grounds from bookmakers. The BHA remains of the view that the levy system needs replacing, and on that front racing was rocked back on its heels somewhat when the government consultation on the levy that had been expected to take place was parked by the minister for sport and tourism Hugh Robertson. Instead the Levy Board was asked to sort out a funding deal between racing and bookmakers for the medium term. There was, on the face of it, some good news last week for those who want the government to press on with finding a system to succeed the levy. It came in a written response to a question from Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, who asked what progress had been made "on replacing the Horserace Betting Levy Board system of funding horseracing". Hugh Robertson replied that he was pleased the latest levy scheme had been agreed and added: "I have now given the Levy Board six months to help broker a commercial and enforceable long-term agreement under the current levy arrangements. I continue to explore other options to fund racing and, if a suitable solution is found, would expect this to lead to a public consultation by autumn 2013." So the commitment to the consultation is still there, albeit with a later timetable than racing wants. Given how hard it has been to find "a suitable solution" to replace the levy, the onus seems to be on the Levy Board, racing and bookmakers to come up with something in the next few months. vvBartlett's bubble theory BETTING shops and their 'proliferation' have been back in the news recently, but it would seem the same market forces that have been causing the seemingly daily closures of other retailers may do to bookmakers what campaigners have failed to manage so far. Writing in the latest newsletter from his Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, industry expert Warwick Bartlett noted the rise in costs of media fees bookmakers must pay to show horseracing in their shops. Bartlett does not believe bookmakers will introduce their own levy on horseracing bets, as has been floated as a possibility. Instead, he wrote: "What will happen is betting shops will continue to trade on lower margins and become ever more dependent on slot machines. If the economy starts to deteriorate (and there is a strong possibility that may happen given the level of government debt), betting shops will close - not only the shops owned by independent bookmakers but big chain bookmakers as well. "The splurge of openings on the high street smacks of a bubble and a correction will be due in time." The government's response this week to calls for a crackdown on the betting industry - that more evidence was needed before it would change the regulations over gambling machines - would have come as a welcome relief to bookmakers. But given that racing needs betting shops to stay open to help pay the levy and to provide media rights fees for racecourses, it is no surprise the BHA would want to make finding an alternative funding mechanism to the levy a priority. vvAussie's scant TV coverage WHILE it still remains too early to be giving the new Channel 4 Racing regime the definitive thumbs up or down, it is still a very welcome fact that there will be 88 days of racing broadcast on a mainstream channel in the United Kingdom. Compare this to the situation in Australia, where the recent deal to broadcast 27 days of racing free-to-air on the Seven Network has been hailed as a landmark.

'The commitment is there, albeit with a later timetable than racing wants'
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Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 18, 2013
Words:794
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