Ladbrokes chief blasts authorised betting partner scheme

ladbrokesimageJim Mullen, chief executive of Ladbrokes, has openly criticised the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) new authorised betting partner (ABP) initiative, claiming that the scheme is forcing the sport and bookmakers to take “deeper entrenched positions”.

Unveiled in October, the strategy states bookmakers in the UK that fail to pay an agreed amount in levy contributions in respect of digital operations, or do not have a commercial funding agreement in place, may not be allowed to sponsor races held at tracks owned by Arena Racing Company (ARC) or the Jockey Club.

However, bookmakers that abide by the rules and sign up as an ABP will have a number of advantages, including promotional benefits.

Betfair, Bet365 and 32Red have already signed up as ABPs, with each brand to contribute an agreed percentage of racing revenues from their exchange and sportsbook.

The BHA this week also clarified its position over affiliates, with the Guardian newspaper reporting that businesses ‘affiliated’ to online betting firms will be able to maintain racing sponsorship, even if they encourage punters to use non-ABP bookmakers.

Despite this change, Mullen has voiced his concerns about the system, saying that it forces bookmakers to choose between “fight or flight” and that the policy may damage the “intertwined” betting and racing industries.

“I am not sure that any issue which has led to such a heated debate or argument, whether personal, political or commercial, has ever been solved by increasing the number of verbal and commercial grenades being thrown from ever deeper entrenched positions,” Mullen said.

“We need to look forward if peace and stability is to be achieved and grudges and niggles of past times have to be set aside.

“Progress cannot be made against a backdrop of scores, injustices – or perceived injustices – and beliefs in historic debts that have to be settled first.”

Mullen added: “My fear is that our current disagreements are akin to the French aristocracy in a cart on their way to the guillotine arguing over whose fault it was.

“While those individuals lost their heads, the biggest loser was the aristocracy itself and racing, let me remind you, is the Sport of Kings; whatever side of the argument you sit on, please remember that our fate is intertwined.

“If it continues on the current path, we will be pushed into a corner, and fight or flight will become the only option available to us.

“It is my belief that we all have a duty as leaders to be very, very careful that we avoid such scenarios because they will be damaging, perhaps even more than we currently realise.”

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