Releasing its annual report and accounts for 2018, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA)’s chief executive Nick Rust explained that the ‘the BHA’s mandate to regulate independently on equine welfare was regularly questioned’ as it has been ‘challenged on multiple fronts.’
The report, released yesterday, includes a foreword from both Rust and new BHA chair Annamarie Phelps. Rust explained that while 2018 was an ‘undoubtedly great year for British racing’, the industry must ensure that it does not ‘retreat into bunkers when the going gets tough’ in the face of cuts to its income and levy contributions.
He explained: “There is much to celebrate in our sport and it is helpful, as a regulator, to be reminded of this. The role of a regulator is to ensure fairness and fair play. Doing so requires the establishment and enforcement of rules but the rules exist to protect and empower the majority, far more than they serve to punish or reprimand the minority.
“There is a balance to be struck, clearly, and this balance is best achieved, quite simply, by doing what is right, using a strong evidence base to underpin our regulation, bringing people with us whenever we can, whilst also being mindful that the burden of regulation remains proportionate, manageable and makes a tangible positive difference.
“I freely admit that, during the past 12-18 months, we have not always got this right. Sometimes we have moved too fast, sometimes not fast enough. We have worked hard to learn from this, and I restate our commitment to working with others in our sport, understanding their challenges and harnessing their expertise, to make sustained, continuous improvements.”
Addressing the introduction of the maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the BHA CEO revealed that ‘securing the sport’s finances became more urgent following publication of the Government’s Gambling Review in May 2018.’
He concluded: “While the sport fully supports efforts to curb problem gambling, the significant effect on betting shops is certain to have knock-on financial implications for racing, which need to be appropriately forecast and mitigated.
“The early months of 2019 gave an indication of the challenges to come, with considerable debate around prize money levels, followed by the sobering news that the 2018/19 Levy yield was lower than forecast.
“The sport must avoid the temptation to retreat into bunkers when the going gets tough, instead working together to confront this shared financial challenge. We must all adapt where necessary, whilst becoming more creative and innovative in our commercial thinking”