The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has revealed that its Chairman Steve Harman is to step down from the role at the end of the year to focus on extending the Horserace Betting Levy to cover all overseas racing.
Harman will be adopting the new ‘industry-wide’ role to engage with government, which will see him work exclusively on Levy development with Westminster and mitigating the risks to the industry around the changes planned on FOBTs stakes.
The slashing of the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 has real implications for racing given that the bookmaking industry believes that almost half of the country’s betting shops will become unviable and close, causing huge dents in the amounts going to racing from Levy payments and media rights payments. Racing estimates that its income could drop by £40-60m per year.
The BHA said that a formal process to recruit a new Chair of the Board will start shortly.
Harman commented: “This is the single biggest issue facing our industry and I welcome the opportunity to galvanise support to get the best possible deal for horseracing. This could mean a further reform of the levy to capture overseas betting and other changes we could seek to ensure that the funding of racing is secured for the future.”
The BHA’s shareholders, the ROA, TBA, RCA and Licensed Personnel said: “The potential impact of reducing revenue to racing because of the FOBT announcement is a major issue for the industry. It is vital that we work together across the sport and with government to make the appropriate changes to ensure the future funding of the sport.”
What will be of concern to the beleaguered betting industry is that the BHA’s attempts to recoup this lost monies will once again be from its coffers, regardless of the health of the sector following the removal of one of its main revenue generators.
As a result, The BHA Board has now set aside the Article 51 complaint against Harman, who has apologised for inaccuracies in his initial explanations to the Board relating to an article in the Times newspaper. Harman had been criticised for meeting with Alex Frost, chief executive of the Alizeti consortium that has since invested in the Tote, at a time when the BHA was remaining neutral in the future of the racing pool betting.
The Board confirmed that an independent review carried out concluded that there had been no conflict of interest.
A BHA spokesman said: “We are pleased this matter has now been closed and we can focus on the BHA’s core responsibilities of the regulation and governance of British Racing.”