HBLB Confirms Levy Reserves Decrease By 40%

The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) has stated that 40 percent lower than pre-pandemic rates would be reserves kept to help the sport during tough times.

Reported by The Guardian, chief executive of the board, Alan Delmonte, revealed that reserves are forecast to be around £30 m by the end of December, having been around £50 m in March.

“That shows you what’s happened to them in the nine months to the end of this year. That’s the sort of call that’s been made on them,” Delmonte told The Guardian.

This underscores the rising pressure on the sport to encourage fans to return. Last month, for the remainder of the year, HBLB made a ‘substantial increase’ in its prize money, with allocations expected to grow by 50%.

Delmonte admitted that if in the current racing situation there was no significant change, then things would become ‘very difficult.’ Discussing how the levy estimates in recent years have fluctuated, the HBLB CEO said: “The highest that they’ve been in recent times is probably where they were just before Covid started.

“That figure of £30m sounds quite healthy but there’s a world of difference between £30m with the arrow pointing upwards and the same figure when the arrow’s pointing downwards. We’ve always said we don’t want to be in a position where we ourselves are starting to worry about where the next pound is coming from because the effect that it has on industry confidence is quite significant, so we don’t want to over-commit.”

Looking ahead, Delmonte said racing needs to gain clarification from racecourses about prize money contributions, as well as ‘a return to some sort of paying crowds on a sustainable basis, which helps to make the racecourse contributions possible.’

Stressing that betting turnover figures have been promising since the resumption of the racing in June, Delmonte said: “But that can’t be assumed to continue, in an environment where we know that the furlough scheme is coming to an end in the autumn. You just don’t know what the effect will be on consumer spending and confidence.”

HBLB’s decision to raise its contribution to prize money would help bring overall prize money to around two-thirds of the usual amount for the final third of the year.

Delmonte finished by saying: “No one is suggesting that’s enough in the longer term to maintain owner interest and confidence but that’s the sort of ball park that we’ve had in mind. If you get to two-thirds of the normal and you’ve managed to restore the minimum prize money values throughout the sport at every class except for the very top, which is 75% of the norm, that at least gives you something where you can say, there’s a structure, there’s an aspiration and people can see where we’re trying to get to.

“But that just buys you four months with the hope that things start to turn the corner in early 2021.”