RGA head slams UK Budget’s Betting Right proposal

RGA head slams UK Budget’s Betting Right proposal

Thursday, March 19, 2015 Totally Gaming

The head of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) has told TotallyGaming.com that the Government’s Horserace Betting Right (HBR) proposal is "not fair or sustainable".

UK Chancellor George Osbourne made little more than a passing mention to the HBR in his hour-long Budget speech yesterday (Wednesday), but the implications for gambling companies that offer betting on UK racing could be huge.

While operators had heard rumours that an announcement could be made during the Budget, there was still genuine shock due to the fact that consultations on a possible replacement for the Levy – which was introduced in the early 1960s – only finished last week.

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, told TotallyGaming.com: “It is not fair or sustainable. We have set out in great detail in successive responses to DCMS consultations why this proposal is fundamentally flawed.

“In the two most recent consultations, the last of which on this specific issue only close last week, Helen Grant as the responsible Minister at DCMS stated that the Government did not have a preferred option for reforming or replacing the Levy.

“We had already questioned the validity of that assurance because of comments being made by others within the Government and we had also heard that racing interests had been advised that there would be an announcement as part of the Budget statement. Against that background we were fully expecting something like this on Wednesday.

“That did not make it any less welcome and some have suggested that it makes a mockery of having public consultations because clearly a decision had been taken before the deadline for comments had even been reached.”

The Budget states that “the Government will bring forward legislative proposals to replace the 1963 Horserace Betting Levy with a new Horserace Betting Right. The new authorisation scheme will apply to all bookmakers, wherever located, who take bets from British customers on British racing and will be administered directly by the racing industry”.

However, the HBR is still some way from becoming law, with a General Election on May 7, further consultations and then Parliamentary votes still to consider.

The RGA has made it clear that it will oppose the HBR vigorously, and believes that it could possibly have a negative impact on both the betting industry and racing itself.

Hawkswood added: “If at some point in the future this right does become a reality then it has the potential to be very damaging to sports books.

“This is primarily for three reasons. Firstly, there is the obvious cost implication and it is worrying that the modelling commissioned by DCMS looks at a range of 10.75 per cent up to 50 per cent of gross profits on British horseracing being passed to the racing industry.

“Even at the lowest end of this range, which is the current Levy rate, horserace betting becomes the most expensive online gambling product. Commercially this means that there is an incentive to try and push customers to others products and not to promote horserace betting.

“Secondly, there is the more fundamental risk that this right effectively passes control of the betting product away from the betting industry and to the horserace betting industry.

“Thirdly, despite DCMS assurances, it will inevitably set a precedent that other sports will want to follow.”

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