Bookmakers agree cash boost for horse racing

Business News

Bookmakers have agreed to pay additional fees on existing streaming and data deals until December 2 – providing much-needed revenue for horse racing during the latest Covid-19 lockdown.

The agreement has so far been reached with Racecourse Media Group, which is owned by 34 British racecourse shareholders and provides streaming and data to bookmakers from 35 British and all 26 Irish racecourses.

The extra revenue from online operators will help racecourses to make up for some of the funding shortfall caused by the widespread closure of betting shops in UK and Ireland for the next month. Bookmakers agreed to similar increased pricing in June and July when betting shops were closed.

More than half of racecourses’ revenue comes from spectators, meaning the ongoing ban is crippling the sport – and putting the future viability of courses at risk unless the Government allows their return.

With the exception of two pilot meetings at Doncaster and Warwick, there have been no crowds allowed at courses across the UK since March.

Julian Thick, CEO of Newbury Racecourse, said: “We are very grateful for the betting industry to agree to paying increased fees for the next month, while most of Britain and Ireland will be locked down. Newbury Racecourse has long enjoyed valued partnerships with bookmakers, and we are of course looking forward to the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival this month.

“This additional funding will be much valued by racecourses but it won’t plug the hole left by lost revenues from LBO closures for the next month. Make no mistake, racecourses are really suffering at the moment, and the return of crowds is absolutely critical to us operating but we are grateful for betting industry’s support throughout the difficulties of the Covid-19 crisis.”

The close collaboration is evidence of the betting and gaming industry’s determination to help racing through the crisis. The timely support comes as racing fights to deal with the financial impact of the ban on spectators and the closure of betting shops.

Each year, land-based and online bookmakers pay tens of millions of pounds for the right to screen live races to customers, in addition to levy contributions, sponsorship and media payments.

But with every shop in England closed until at least December 2, funding from betting shops has dried up.

To further compound the problem, betting shops are the only part of non-essential retail being forced to close in Tier 3 areas, meaning they could still be closed in parts of the country after the England-wide lockdown ends.

The BGC continues to call on the Government to treat betting shops fairly by allowing them to safely re-open post-lockdown alongside other high street premises.

Coupled with the ongoing ban on spectators attending live sports, this represents a multi-million-pound hit to racing’s revenues.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: “There has always been a close relationship between betting and racing. So, with the Government’s ongoing Covid restrictions affecting the sport so severely, it’s welcome that bookmakers are stepping up to further support the sport.

“This extra funding for streaming and data rights will undoubtedly help racing’s finances for the next month and I’m delighted to see BGC members assisting the sport in this way.

“We will continue to make the case to the Government that betting shops should be allowed to re-open, in line with the rest of non-essential retail, once the national lockdown ends, and that socially-distanced crowds return to race meetings as soon as possible.

“I’m equally sure that the whole of racing will be making the case ahead of the Government’s gambling review that a healthy betting industry is critical to the future of the sport.”

Racecourse Media Group, which is owned by 34 British racecourse shareholders, provides streaming and data to bookmakers from 35 British and all 26 Irish racecourses.

Nick Mills, Commercial Director at Racecourse Media Group, said: “We are very grateful to all our streaming and data partners who have agreed to pay an increased fee for the RMG Watch & Bet service for one month.

“This will help compensate our racecourses for some of the revenues lost from our LBO (Licensed Betting Office) business, while shops are closed. This shows what can be achieved by racing and betting working effectively together, which is especially important in these times.”