Tuesday 14th July 2009

Creating A More Level Playing Field

Robert Hughes, Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, has identified the need for a multi-level approach to the problem of overseas based bookmakers who are not paying levy.

On 30th April 2009 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that it will work with the Gambling Commission to look at a number of issues to explore ways to make the system fairer to ensure a more level playing field between British gambling operators and their overseas-based gambling counterparts. This will include looking at the mechanisms for securing fairer contributions from overseas licensed operators towards the cost of regulation, the treatment of problem gambling and the Horserace Betting Levy

The Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board has suggested that three levels of support are required for this Government initiative.

At a basic level, notwithstanding any legal obligation, bookmakers operating overseas, and taking bets from British customers on British racing, have a moral obligation towards supporting British racing by paying a levy contribution. This is already being done by certain betting operators.

The second level concerns everyone in the media and racing, who should review the relationships they have with overseas based betting operators, specifically advertising, sponsorship, promotion and indeed betting with overseas-based bookmakers who are not paying or contributing to the levy.

The third level is support for the efforts of Government to create a more level playing field for British-based gambling operators to compete with their overseas rivals.

Rob Hughes, Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, said:

“I am committed to taking forward our commitment at these three levels to create a more level playing field for British bookmakers to compete with their overseas rivals and I shall be discussing this with Levy Board colleagues at our next meeting.

If all bookmakers in Great Britain currently operating internet and telephone betting on British racing were to move off-shore and not pay a levy contribution, the annual levy yield would decline by about £25million, which would have an extremely harmful effect on British racing.

Bookmakers operating overseas and relying on British horseracing for their profits may have a legal obligation to pay the levy and in any event have a moral obligation to support racing through the levy or a contribution to it. Providing small amounts of sponsorship to selective races does very little to redress the balance. Indeed, everybody in the media and within racing needs to think carefully about their relationship with overseas-based bookmakers who do not contribute to British racing through the levy: this includes betting with them as well as promoting them through advertising and sponsorship.

I also recognise the Government’s dilemma in trying to achieve a more level playing field. I support initiatives such as an examination of the White List, which allows bookmakers to advertise in the UK from a foreign country, and the possibility of new requirements for advertising in the UK.”