Lottery hits at turf's coffers

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Racing's finances have fallen further into the red as the industry continues to be hit by the National Lottery, says the Horserace Betting Levy Board's annual report published today.

The report, which reviews the 1995-96 financial year, calculates the levy yield from betting turnover at pounds 48m - pounds 7m less than had been forecast in October 1994 before the introduction of the Lottery.

Sir John Sparrow, board chairman, said: "The 1995-96 levy out-turn and the scale of profit reductions announced in recent months by the large, publicly quoted bookmaking companies, have made it clear that the industry is experiencing, in the effects of the National Lottery, the worst setback in its fortunes since betting shops were legalised in 1960."

The state of the betting industry was illustrated by the number of shops which had closed during the period under review, the board's chief executive, Rodney Brack said. "By the end of the financial year, the total number of operating shops had fallen below 9,000, compared with around 9,500 at the outset, a decline of 5.2 per cent, well above the long-term trend,'' Brack pointed out.

"Although many of the closures were made by small bookmakers, similar actions were taken by several of the large companies, and those shops that could not be sold were locked and left."