Racing: Club threat to bookmakers

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The Independent Online
LORD HARTINGTON last night gave vent to his frustration with the attitude of bookmakers in the most uncompromising speech ever delivered by a Senior Steward of the Jockey Club.

Speaking at the annual Gimcrack dinner in York, an occasion for keynote speeches, Hartington warned the betting industry that unless it co-operates with reasonable requests for greater investment, bookie-friendly amendments to racing's fixture list will be reversed.

'We have spent the last 18 months serenading the bookmakers; sometimes they appeared to be listening, but that was clearly an illusion,' he said.

'If the big three (Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill) really want to co-operate, I expect them to invite us to constructive talks about the next Levy, and I expect them to do it now, before Christmas and not next June. Until we see real co-operation from the bookmakers, this unrequited love song will be heard no more.'

Despite making 'extensive and substantial' changes to the fixture list, which may add pounds 12m to bookmakers' profits, the Jockey Club lost out in the negotiations for the latest Levy scheme. 'Racing had made the changes for practically nothing,' Hartington lamented.

'It is the same position in which we have so often found ourselves, of being obliged to run like hell just to stay still, whereas the bookmakers do nothing and end up better off.

'In fact, everything that racing does well, all the improvements we make, benefit the bookies. Top-class horses, all-weather racing, improved marketing and promotion, seventh races, reserve races, re-opened races and race times all help to increase betting turnover, and therefore the layers' profits.

'Every move racing has made to improve betting turnover has resulted in significant extra profits for the bookmakers, but so far a ludicrously small return to racing.

'As owners and horses disappear, the betting industry must face the prospect of these changes being reversed unless they are prepared to co-operate in the full sense of the word.'

In a appeal to the Bookmakers' Committee chairman, Alf Bruce, he added: 'And yes, Mr Bruce, that does include investing a fair share of your profit in our joint future.'