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Covid-19 upheaval leads to GB betting levy decline for 2020-21

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Great Britain’s Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) projects a 17.5% year-on-year drop in betting levy income for the year to 31 March, 2021, following a chaotic year for the racing sector.
Racecourse Media Group Dowding

The levy, collected from the gross profit generated from betting on racing at Gambling Commission-licensed operators, is expected to fall to £80m (€93.0m/$113.2m) for the 2020-21 fiscal year. 

HBLB chairman Paul Darling said decline was down to an extremely difficult year, in which racing was suspended from mid-March to June as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Even after racing resumed from 1 June, racecourses remained closed to spectators and betting shops stayed closed for much of the second half of the year.

“There was no British racing for the first two months of the levy year and it was far from certain when racing resumed in June 2020 as to what the level of betting activity would be in the months that followed,” Darling explained. “We have also seen Licensed Betting Offices either closed completely for parts of the year or open with restrictions.

“Since June, we have attempted to balance on the one hand our desire to commit substantial extra support for the sport from our reserves with, on the other hand, the uncertainty around our own ongoing future income.”

He added that the board increased the amount it distributed in prize money in order to provide further support. The board also offered a series of loans to racecourses as part of a Covid-19 support package.

“We spent £96m in the past Levy year, providing around 50% more to prize money than normal in recent months, as well as £3m towards costs of new regulatory measures to ensure that the sport can take place in accordance with Covid-19 protocols,” Darling said.

“It is to the credit of all those involved that fixtures have taken place without interruption since June.”

He also noted that the board hoped to raise additional funds in order to be more support the sector.

“On the basis of £80m income, our reserves at the end of the 2020/21 levy year stood at just over £40m,” Darling said. “This will give us the flexibility to consider further significant investment in the months ahead, as the board has had in mind the importance of having sufficient resources for the recovery phase from Covid-19.”

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