Thursday, 3 March 2016

A New Dawn for Edith & Maud

On Thursday, this week, the Government made an announcement which will hopefully provide a fitting conclusion to a story first told by Rudyard Kipling in 1888. 

The story, entitled ‘False Dawn’, concerned a suitor who intended to propose to one of two sisters in provincial India. The sisters, Edith and Maud, possessed ‘a strong likeness between them in look and voice,’ - which might have been a metaphor for the similarities between bookmakers on the high-street and bookmakers who operate through digital platforms, often based overseas. Unfortunately the suitor, whose name was Saumarez (he later became a horse and won the 1990 Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe) was disoriented by a dust storm and proposed to the wrong one.

During the last decade we’ve seen quite a few false dawns in racing, while the Government attempted to ensure that offshore bookmakers made a fair contribution to the sport of horseracing. First they scrapped the Horserace Betting Levy Board, then they hastily reinstated it, since when they've been forced to mediate between racing's requirements and the betting industry's identity issues.

Sadly, like Saumarez, their good intentions were lost among a series of disorienting storms - some brewed by the bookmakers and others by European legislation. They tried to woo the offshore bookmakers, but kept on clobbering high-street betting shops instead. This week, however, the Government announced a radical package of reform which will involve the replacement of the Horseracing Betting Levy from April 2017. 

The replacement scheme is expected to deliver a similar proportion of revenue, to horseracing, as was lost through the overseas migration of betting operators. It will create a level playing field among bookmakers: Edith (who owned all the betting shops) will no longer have to pay a lot more than Maud (who dealt exclusively online). Crucially, the plan is also expected to pass European state aid rules, following the favourable outcome of a similar case in France – assuming of course we are still part of Europe in April 2017.

The money will be used to secure the integrity of the sport and to underpin prize money - the life-blood of racing, as it filters through racecourses to owners, trainers, breeders and stable staff. 

In the meantime, racing continues to encourage bookmakers to become Authorised Betting Partners – a status which enables them to sponsor races at Cartmel as well as other racecourses – to make up the shortfall over the next year. One such authorised partner is Star Sports, who happen to sponsor our Cheltenham Festival Preview Night, which will be held in the Grandstand on Thursday 10th March. Tickets are still available and you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious supper as well as secure quality information ahead of the Festival in two weeks time.

And talking of quality information… You can call Star Sports now to back this week’s selection, Many Clouds, in Kelso’s Premier Chase on Saturday. Here’s hoping that those clouds don’t obscure racing’s new dawn.


  1. Great news, but no mention of any benefit to the folk that attend race meetings. A comparison with France is a bit disingenuous when the price charged by British racecourses is way more e pensive than France

    1. Great news indeed. Prize money in Britain has been propped up by the racecourses who have made significantly greater contributions as the levy has reduced.

      Will admission prices go down? Maybe, maybe not: but the recovery of the levy will help racecourses to invest in other areas, including better facilities and offers to attract more racegoers - so don't rule out the possibility.