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Politics


Minister interested in Sunday trading


Northern Ireland Executive social development minister Alex Attwood has said he wants to push ahead with plans to allow betting shops to open on Sundays. A report indicates that this would create 160 jobs and bring £32m to the economy over five years.


BHA delays fixture list to highlight Levy demands


The latest act in the phoney war between racing and bookmakers ahead of the 50th Levy Scheme seems aimed at politicians rather than the betting industry. Andrew McCarron reports.


LEVY SCHEME T


he British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has entered into a game of brinkmanship by delay- ing the details of the


2011 Fixture List, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over 150 of the fixtures.


The BHA has said that it will publish the list by 23 September, around two months late, citing the delay as a ‘result of the dramatic collapse in Levy yield forecasts which are predicted if consider- able changes are not made for the 50th Levy Scheme’.


BHA has said its ‘twilight’ fix- tures, which have been popular in betting shops, will be made avail- able for allocation between January to April and September to December on the basis that the average prize money at each fixture is not less than £3,000 per race.


The BHA said that the suspen- sion of 150 fixtures, around 10 per cent of the total fixtures, will only be reconsidered if ‘racecourses and the Horsemen’s Group agree a basis for their allocation and make a proposal to the Board’.


BHA director of racing Ruth Quinn commented: “Once the number of fixtures is set, we can then begin to look at minimum prize money values and the race programme, though, this in itself will be a further challenge with the current forecast Levy yield of £70m inadequate and unsustainable.” The announcement has caused much murmuring from within the sport, with BHA chief executive Nic Coward and chairman Paul Roy coming increasingly under fire for their style of leadership. The reduction in fixtures could


The BHA is threatening to axe 150 fixtures unless it gets more from the next Levy Scheme


ANALYSIS


THE THREATENED SUSPENSION OF 150 FIXTURES IF IT CAN’T SQUEEZE MORE MONEY OUT OF THE LEVY IS AN EYE CATCHING MOVE BY THE BHA, BUT THE WELL IS DRY AS FAR AS UK BETTING SHOPS ARE CONCERNED. ACCORDING TO THE ABB, BOOKMAKERS ARE PAYING APPROXIMATELY £75M PER ANNUM TO SHOW RACING IN THEIR LBOS, A FIGURE THAT HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED IN THREE YEARS. YET THIS FACT IS NEVER MENTIONED IN RACING’S PLEAS OF PENURY. RACING MUST BE GETTING SOME OF THE BOOKMAKING INDUSTRY’S INCREASED EXPENDITURE ON


HORSERACING MEDIA RIGHTS - BUT IT DOESN’T APPEAR TO BE ABLE, OR WILLING, TO ACCOUNT FOR THIS MONEY.


theoretically also see a reduction in next year’s levy yield, with fewer betting events meaning less profit for bookmakers. ABB director Tom Kenny also questioned whether the sport spends the money it gets wisely anyway. “I’m not sure there’s too much racing, but maybe there are too many racecourses,” he told the FT. “Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a strong com- mercial rationale in the way racing operates as a nationally co-ordi- nated sport. It begs the question whether they are spending the resources they do have in a sensi- ble way.”


Meanwhile, betting exchange Betfair has hit back hard at sugges- tions in racing’s submission to the Levy Board that some of its bigger customers are acting as bookmak- ers and as such should be individu- ally liable to pay 10 per cent of their profits into the Levy Scheme. In its own submission to the Levy


Board, Betfair said: “Whether an individual falls within the defini- tion of ‘bookmaker’ would be for a court to determine and the most comprehensive examination of the matter conducted to date (by HM Treasury), concluded that there was insufficient evidence to cate- gorise the high-volume use of exchanges as betting being con- ducted ‘in business’.”


It added: “Racing also refers to people who are not ‘casual punters’ as if by definition that means they must be ‘business’ punters. However, the existence of sophis- ticated and large staking punters pre-dated betting exchanges and exists away from exchanges.In addition, HM Treasury’s conclu- sion was that there were ‘high volume gamblers who have tradi- tionally been outside the tax net’ using exchanges, yet there was insufficient evidence to charac- terise them as being ‘in business’.”


Irish bookmakers want evening option T


OPENING HOURS


he Irish Bookmakers Association is calling on the government to amend its gambling legislation to enable shops to stay open in the evenings during the winter months. The IBA claims that such a move would save up to 1,000 jobs in the sector that would otherwise be lost between 1 September and 31 March. IBA chair Sharon Byrne told Betting Business Interactive: “At the moment, the outdated legislation that governs the bookmaking industry only allows for late opening when there is an evening Irish horse racing meeting. By simply adding the words ‘and greyhound’ to the legislation, it would allow us to stay open through- out the winter to cater for all our cus- tomers. This would immediately help


16 BettingBusinessInteractive • SEPTEMBER 2010


Sharon Byrne: ‘we are calling on government to help us


save over 1,000 part time jobs. At a time when unemployment is so high, this simple change would make a massive difference.” Byrne added: “The bookmaking industry is facing challenges like all industries in the current economic climate but we are willing to be adaptable and flexible and we are calling on government to help us. By taking an innovative approach and updating the legislation governing the industry, we can meet many of these challenges and save busi- nesses and jobs. It would also allow us to compete with offshore mobile and internet companies, who benefit from our shops being closed.” Unemployment is a big political issue in Ireland and reached 13.7 per


cent in July. Paddy Power chief exec- utive Patrick Kennedy has warned the Irish government that its pro- posal to tax Irish online and tele- phone betting is a ‘tax on Irish jobs’. Speaking as the company announced 54 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to 52.5m euro for the first six months of this year, Kennedy said: “We don’t have an issue with paying betting taxation. Our issue is if we have to pay it solely because we employ people in Ireland.”


Kennedy added that Paddy Power was planning to recruit an additional 750 people over the next three years, but warned: “There is a genuine risk that if the government introduces a tax that creates an unlevel playing field, those jobs don’t come to Ireland.”


Fund


launches problem gambling pilots


RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING T


he Responsible Gambling Fund (RGF) has


announced the launch of the first of three innovative pilot projects aimed at minimising gambling-related harm in Britain. Each three-year pilot is expected to contribute to significant developments in support for gambling-related harm - particularly focusing on early identification and intervention.


The pilots will aim to develop the capability of local primary care, substance misuse, mental health, debt advice, and other community-based services to identify and assist people, and those close to them, who are at risk of, or are already, being negatively affected by gambling. RGF chair Baroness Neuberger is delighted with this ‘important step’. She said: “Gambling- related harm is an important public health and social issue that we believe can best be addressed by a range of agencies collaborating and working in partnership to tackle gambling-related harm. The pilots are an


important step in building the capability of front line workers in local communities to address this important issue.” Aquarius, a charity helping individuals and communities with problems arising from addiction, will lead the first pilot. Its CEO Annette Fleming said: “Often people seek our help when they are in crisis - they may have huge debts, have lost their job, their home and even their family. This early intervention project will allow us to raise awareness of the potential harms and encourage people to seek help much sooner. We will work closely with a range of agencies to support them in providing gambling advice and interventions and we will ensure that the service is as


accessible as possible.”


ACTION IMAGES / CARL RECINE LIVEPIC


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