During the second coronavirus lockdown, bookmakers have agreed to deliver a much-needed cash boost for horseracing, after announcing that they would pay extra fees until 2 December on existing streaming and data packages.
The added revenue from online operators would allow racecourses to compensate for some of the loss in funding caused by the widespread closure for the next month of betting shops in the UK and Ireland.
With the exception of two pilot meetings at Doncaster and Warwick, since mid-March, no crowds have been permitted at courses around the UK.
The new bookmaker deal, which follows on from similar higher rates when betting shops were closed in June and July, comes at a time when UK racing is attempting to tackle the long-term financial pressures arising from the spectator ban and the closure of betting shops.
Newbury Racecourse CEO Julian Thick 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 Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) released a statement detailing the tens of millions of pounds donated to consumers by both land-based and online bookmakers for the right to broadcast live races, in addition to tax donations, sponsorship and media payments.
However, owing to the closing of betting shops in England until at least 2 December, exacerbated by the continuing spectator ban, there was a significant decrease in support for the racing industry.
It is not assured that betting stores will reopen their doors in large parts of England once the lockout is lifted, with betting stores likely to remain closed in areas under Tier 3 restrictions.
The BGC advised the government to ‘fairly treat betting shops’ by enabling them to re-open post-lockdown safely alongside other high street premises.
The BGC chief executive, Michael Dugher, added: “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.”
Owned by 34 British racecourse owners, Racecourse Media Company offers streaming and data to bookmakers from 35 British and all 26 Irish racecourses.
Nick Mills, Racecourse Media Group ‘s Commercial Director, concluded: “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.”