Thursday, 20 October 2016

Bookies Bashed as Punters Weep in the Streets

Cor, wot a scorcher! The bookies are being asked for tens of millions of pounds, but there are punters weeping in the streets... What’s going on? The Sun might ask.

The gods of sport took aim at horseracing this week and unleashed both barrels – as two seismic events rocked the racing world. First, The Times newspaper announced that it had seen a letter, from the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, asking bookmakers for their thoughts on paying racing a 10% share of gross profits on horserace betting.
Then came the second blast, inevitable one day I suppose: The Sun newspaper heralded the retirement of Claude Duval, the Punters’ Pal.
The 71 year old racing journalist from Cranbrook in Kent (42: 52: 32) – I made up the vital statistics, which is something Claude would NEVER do – has been a fixture at The Sun since the tabloid edition first hit the streets in November 1969. The front-page headline was: 'Horse Dope Sensation!' In fact Claude was the only remaining member of the reporting team that published that first tabloid edition, although The Sun had enjoyed an even earlier life as a broadsheet since 1964.

Claude Duval became the Horserace Writers Association’s Journalist of the Year in 1998 and published biographies of Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery, Willie Carson and Tony McCoy. But his greatest moment arguably came following the disqualification of Royal Gait from the Ascot Gold Cup in 1988. Prior to the subsequent Jockey Club hearing, Claude wrote "If Royal Gait doesn’t get the race I’ll streak round Portman Square…" But Royal Gait was not awarded the race and Claude Duval achieved the sort of photo by-line which would still be considered unusual today.
Throughout Claude’s near 50-year tenure, the racing industry has been engaged in a never-ending negotiation with bookmakers over the amount of money that should be paid for their main product, a proportion of the profits left behind by punters in the bookmakers’ satchels. After more than 50 years of the Horserace Betting Levy, Tracey Crouch’s letter suggested that we might be nearing a settlement.
A charge of 10% of gross profits, levied on digital platforms as well as high-street betting shops, would represent an increase of more than £30 million for racing, which has seen levy revenue plummet from around £100 million, to less than £55 million, in the last ten years.
It is estimated that the new scheme, which would include relief for smaller betting firms, could cost Ladbrokes and Corals an extra £5 million. While we shouldn’t assume that they’ll be pleased at the prospect, the proposal offers the merging bookmakers a degree of certainty and a level playing field with other, digitally-led, betting organisations. The price looks cheap when compared against the discount applied to their joint shop dispersal, engineered to smooth their merger through competition concerns, of 359 shops at the knock down price of just £55.5 million.
A spokesman for DCMS was keen to point out that no rate has been agreed for the replacement levy scheme. A spokesman for The Sun refused to confirm whether the Punters' Pal would endorse our selection for this weekend – Urban Hymn at Kelso, 2.35pm on Saturday. 

... and for Claude Duval's own account of his time at The Sun, go to:

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