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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.