Letter: Home Office threat to the independents

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The Independent Online
Sir: What on earth can the Home Office be thinking of concerning the re-constitution of The Bookmakers Committee to the Levy Board? This statutory body is responsible for recommending a levy for bookmakers to support racing. The committee is evenly divided between the larger concerns and the small operators and the balance ensures the survival of the latter.

The Home Office is proposing to give Ladbroke two seats, William Hill two seats, Coral two seats, British Office Licensees' Association (which the Big Three control) two seats, and four seats to the independents. You would not have to be a rocket scientist to see the Home Office is giving Big Three bookmakers power to achieve whatever they would wish to on horserace levy matters.

What is perhaps surprising is the different views various government departments take on the issues relating to betting. Recently the Department of Trade and Industry upheld the Monopolies and Mergers Commission decision on the Ladbroke takeover of Coral. It gave a clear message that government now had an aggressive competition policy. However, we now find that the big bookmakers have found another route to exploit through the Home Office. What they have lost at the DTI, they will now gain at the Home Office. What a farce.

You might ask how this ludicrous state of affairs has come about. Our view is that it has been caused by the British Horseracing Board's silly demand for the levy to rise nearly two-and-a-half times and the Home Office's stated reluctance to determine the dispute if agreement between bookmakers and racing cannot be reached.

It is ironic that small bookmaker in rural areas who provide the public with the legal opportunity to bet is likely to suffer because of greed on the part of racing, a lack of responsibility in government, not to mention the Big Three bookmakers who are striving to achieve a complete oligopoly.

WARWICK BARTLETT

Chairman British Betting Office Association Ltd

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