Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Big Betting Freeze

While the mild Autumn in Cumbria is already helping to mend the scars inflicted on the turf by our recent drainage works, there is a distinct chill settling in London. Ladbrokes are offering odds of just 7/1 about a white Christmas – presumably because of the frosty atmosphere hovering over the offices of the British Horseracing Authority in Holborn. 

The BHA announced on Tuesday that all bookmakers, accepting bets on British racing, will be required to pay a levy or similar voluntary payment in order to become an Authorised Betting Partner of British racing. We don’t yet know exactly what the benefits of being an authorised partner will be – but one of the drawbacks of declining the partnership scheme is that it will become more difficult to generate publicity through race sponsorship. 

Jockey Club Racecourses and ARC Racecourses have signalled that they will not agree to any new deals with non-partner bookmakers. I wonder if their sponsorship departments have already tied up all the major sponsorship contracts that would have terminated in the near future. That’s certainly what I would have done if I’d known an announcement of this nature was heading down the line. 

Cartmel benefits from sponsorship agreements with three betting operators and, needless to say, they are all vital to the development of our race programme. Betfair has already been acknowledged as an Authorised Betting Partner and their support for Cartmel is underwritten by a recognised grass-roots funding programme.  

Betfred (incorporating the Tote) and Coral, the other two bookmakers to sponsor here, support our most valuable races - including a number of relatively new Class 2 and 3 events. Both organisations are contributors to the £4.5 million additional voluntary contribution (AVC Fund), which has boosted prize money for races, throughout Britain, down to sixth place and beyond this year. Negotiations to develop this scheme, or similar ones, will hopefully result in their securing partner status too. 

To some observers the latest developments will appear as a provocative action against some of racing’s biggest customers: Pay up – or else we’ll cut off our nose to spite both our faces. But the key lies in the word partner: For bookmakers are racing’s most natural and potentially beneficial partners; it makes sense for us to work together.

And while some bookmakers pay a voluntary contribution based on revenue from their digital platforms, others are getting a free ride altogether – paying nothing for the privilege of using our product while freely promoting their services throughout British racing. 

There are bound to be some sensitive discussions ahead of the 1st January deadline. Nick Rust (the BHA Chief Executive), who has first hand experience of life in the top echelons of the betting industry, will be attempting to convince his old pals at Ladbrokes and Coral that it makes sense to put some distance between themselves and the non-contributors.

I won't be taking 7/1 about a white Christmas (our weekly selection is Karezak at Cheltenham this weekend). I hope there'll be a thaw in relations in time for the Coral sponsored Welsh National at Chepstow on 27th December. 

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