UK gov’t proposes new Horserace Betting Authorization to replace betting Levy

The UK government has taken another step toward replacing the controversial racing betting Levy with a legally enforceable ‘racing right.’ On Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne delivered the government’s Autumn Statement, which laid out a plan to consult on the introduction of a new Horserace Betting Authorization.

The new racing right would compel bookmakers to contribute a fixed proportion of race betting profits to the racing industry. At present, the UK bookies’ contribution to racing is negotiated annually with the Horserace Betting Levy Board. In September, agreement was reached on the 54th Levy Scheme, which will contribute a total of £74.3m to UK racing.

The statement said the government would announce further details of the plan following the consultation, which is expected to take four weeks. The racing right isn’t likely to be implemented before the May 2015 general election but the plan is believed to have strong support among all political parties, therefore ensuring its survival regardless of who holds the reins of power.

The British Horseracing Authority’s chairman Steve Harman celebrated the news, calling it “a landmark opportunity to secure a modern, fair and sustainable funding mechanism” for the sport. Harman said racing looked forward to demonstrating “how an enforceable replacement for the Levy can genuinely work for all parties.”

Betting operator Ladbrokes issued a statement saying it agreed that racing and betting needed to resolve the issue. However, since bookies are already paying media and data rights on top of the Levy, Lads wondered “what, if any, protections against abuse of monopoly power will be included in the consultation.” Lads also wanted to know how racing would be “incentivized to deliver a product that delivers to the modern betting customer.”

The issue of a similar betting right for sport has long been a goal of some European sports bodies, which have sought to institute such a program across the European Union. On Monday, Professor Ben Van Rompuy, a consultant with the Asser International Sports Law Center, told a delegation at the European Sports Forum in Milan that a sports betting right would likely run contrary to European Union rules on restriction of trade.

The sports bodies have claimed their pursuit of a betting right isn’t a mere cash grab but is intended to fund grassroots sports development. Van Rompuy said a betting right would breach Article 56 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and that there were “better ways” of funding grassroots sports.

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