Maggie Carver, chairman of the Racecourse Association (RCA), has issued a call for bookmakers to commit more investment to racing betting, stating that the sport’s future is “critically dependent’ on income from wagering.
Earlier this year, the RCA, along with a number of its partners, set up the Racing Authority to replace the Horserace Betting Levy Board from April 2019.
Led by former UK government minister Sir Hugh Robertson, the organisation has been designed to grant racing more control over its spending.
However, ahead of the official roll-out of the Racing Authority next year, Carver has called on the betting industry to commit more funds to racing in order to ensure its longevity and expand the market.
Carver drew on the RCA’s own efforts to increase investment by setting up the new Betting Liaison Group, which she hopes will “form the basis of a new and constructive relationship with bookmakers”.
“Racing is critically dependent on betting income, and there is a pressing need for the industry to work with bookmakers to invest in initiatives to grow racing betting,” Carver said in the RCA’s annual report.
“A Betting Innovation Group, reporting to the Betting Liaison Group, is being set up to achieve this purpose.”
Carver said the introduction of the new levy scheme in April 2017 was a major milestone for the RCA, helping to generate a total of £95m (€107.2m/$124.9m), together with £4m from the previous scheme, in the year to March 31, 2018.
This allowed for an extra £8m to go into prize money at the lower tiers and £4m extra money for training and other projects, but Carver is keen for the industry to invest more to encourage continued growth.
“The advent of the Racing Authority and other changes in the industry give us a unique opportunity to drive improvements in our effectiveness and accountability,” Carver said.
“To achieve this we need to work together with our partners to ensure that our structure is fit for purpose and to gain an increased understanding of what creates success in our industry.
“We are working more closely now with the Horsemen on joint initiatives to gather information which will better inform our decision-making and we are also looking more widely at demographic and attitudinal changes that will impact racing.
“It’s a challenging year but I am confident that the RCA, with the support of its members, will rise to the challenge.”
Carver’s comments echo those of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) chief executive Nick Rust, who in May suggested racing betting will have a larger role to play in the wake of changes to fixed-odds betting terminals.
Rust said racing leaders will “work with the betting industry and government as to how we can grow such legitimate, socially responsible betting activity on racing”.
A number of bookmakers have stepped up to the plate by agreeing to sponsor and support racing.
In July, William Hill signed exclusive deals with Jockey Club Racing, Go Racing Yorkshire and various independents to expand its on-course betting portfolio.
Image: Racecourse Association