Arena hopes higher crowds will attract buyers

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Racecourse operator Arena Leisure yesterday sought to tickle the fancy of potential bidders by unveiling an 11.3 per cent rise in attendances as it battles to replace lost revenues from a sharp fall in bookmaker funding. Reduced income from the levy on bookmakers' profits, which funds horse racing, was responsible for first half pre-tax profits coming in at only £0.5m, just over half the £0.9m posted the previous year.

Arena recently announced a "strategic review" which could lead to a possible bid. The Reuben Brothers, who own Northern Racing and are major shareholders in Arena, are known to be interested, but it has also emerged that SIS, the bookmaker- owned broadcaster, may be a potential buyer.