Current Levy level unsustainable for LBOs

Horseracing and the government has been warned that the current level of Horseracing Levy being paid by betting shops is unsustainable and will need to be lowered if the sport is going to thrive in betting shops.

Speaking at the Association of British Bookmakers AGM in London yesterday, Paul Darling QC underlined the fact that betting shop operators are paying record amounts of money to the racing industry, via both the Levy and media rights, and that the government’s proposed future funding mechanism need to recognise the fact.

Darling, the ABB chairman, said that the debate around funding needed to be on an intellectual level and evidenced based. He declared: “Betting has nothing to fear from the truth.”

Sarah HarrisonGambling Commission CEO Sarah Harrison took the opportunity to tell the AGM that the regulator is keen on raising standards and that the best way to achieve this is through leadership and culture. She also said that the industry needed to learn from the public dressing downs it has given some operators, most recently Paddy Power.

She said: “Our objective is to achieve credible deterrence and we will look to use our powers to the full, and build on current enforcement policy, to achieve this objective.

“So I urge you to take responsibility. To look to the public statements that have been made and importantly consider how you manage similar risks in your own businesses. Although Aspers, Coral, Bet 365, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Rank, Caesar’s and Paddy Power have all been the subject of scrutiny and public statements over the past few years, it is not just the large operators that should be learning lessons.

“These are applicable across the industry and you – whether large, medium-sized, small or independent – have to respond and take ownership for your own compliance. For example, on-course bookmakers have not fared well of late in terms of underage testing. We will not tolerate non-compliance and this is a challenge which operators individually and collectively need to act on. This couldn’t be a more relevant message for independents at the start of Cheltenham week.”

Harrison had another message for independent bookmakers – that the regulator considers them a key part of the industry and appealed for them to communicate their needs with the Commission. She also said that the change in licensing fees to a GGY approach would help reduce barriers to entry both in retail and online.

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