Levy agreement opens up prospect of record prize money

There was good news for racing with the prospect of record levels of prize money next year. This was the outcome of the Levy deal for 2013/14, which was announced yesterday.

The deal is a significant step in the closer working relationship between bookmakers and racing authorities, which has come about since Paul Bittar took over as head of the British Horseracing Authority in February this year. It also demonstrates to Government that racing is able to deal with its own affairs, and avoided the need for the Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to step in and set bookmaker contribution levels, as they have had to do in the past two years.

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On the whole, the 52nd Levy Scheme is very similar to the current one, with bookmaker paying in 10.75% of their gross profits on British Racing. Gala Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes between them will put in at least £45m, and the recently agreed £7m from Betfair from their offshore activity will also be channelled through the Levy scheme. In total, what is referred to as Betting Generated Revenue will be at least £72.9m

Welcoming the news on behalf of the BHA, Paul Bittar said, “We are pleased to have reached agreement on the 52nd Levy Scheme ahead of the 31 October deadline. This new deal provides some certainty for the sport, and our publication of the full fixture list for 2013 earlier this month was a clear sign of our confidence in a new spirit of co-operation with the betting industry.”

How, then, does a scheme that is pretty much the same as that currently in operation offer the chance of record prize money? Paul Lee, Levy Board chairman, explained that the Levy Board itself would be able to contribute more than £50m towards prize money, up 30% from its present figure of £38.9m. He said, “We are able to make this increase without changing the measured approach we have taken with all expenditure decisions over the past three years. Because we have been prudent, we can now increase our contribution on a sound and responsible basis.”

Lee said he anticipated contributions from racecourse media rights would increase by £10m, roughly the same as the additional Levy Board contribution, and this, along with more money from the racecourses themselves meant “there was a real prospect of record prize money to beat the £110m total of 2009.”

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