Racing: Slow pace set for the Sunday stakes: Under way at Folkestone yesterday but plans for a fast start to betting on Sundays stay in the stalls

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The Independent Online
A WAIT of up to three years faces those campaigning for regular Sunday race meetings with legal cash betting on- and off-course, it was confirmed yesterday.

'Realistically we are looking at the back-end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996 before it is introduced,' Nigel Clark, chairman of the campaign, said. His comments followed yesterday's publication by the Government of a draft bill on Sunday trading laws.

Current thinking at the Home Office was to sort out Sunday trading first, Clark said. 'And if everything follows on, the amendments to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act could be drawn up next autumn and enacted as law by July 1995.'

The racing industry's drive for Sunday racing with betting started in earnest at the start of 1987, yet achieving its goal is at least two years off on the most optimistic projection. There are still plenty of potential hiccups and this leads to questions about how successful the Jockey Club's campaign has been.

Nigel Clark, the Club's official for Sunday racing, is satisfied with the way the game plan is evolving, however. He has no regrets either about the latest strategy of holding Sunday meetings within the law, but without any betting at the track or cash wagering off course. There have been three such meetings, the first at Doncaster last July, followed by the initial National Hunt Sunday raceday at Cheltenham in November. Both attracted huge publicity and excellent crowds of 23,000 and more than 15,000 respectively.

This year, the first Sunday point-to- point meeting lacked such a high profile, which led to the Jockey Club authorising another Sunday raceday, with Lingfield Park beating off many other courses for the 1 August fixture.

The Government promised at the end of 1992 to support the introduction of a bill to allow on- and off-course betting on Sundays but only following the successful passage through Parliament of a general Sunday trading bill.

Victory for unrestricted opening of shops would be good news for the Sunday racing campaign, meaning it would difficult to justify opposition to the necessary amendments to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1963.

Lingfield plans to put on a 12-hour show with a difference on 1 August, the emphasis being on entertainment for the family, with country and western music the dominant theme.

The seven thoroughbred races, staged on both the all-weather track and turf, are of the cheap and cheerful variety, more designed to attract large fields than the top horses.

A family crowd of up to 15,000 is hoped for, with the bars open from noon to 10pm, a funfair and Sunday market in the centre of the course, all-day music and no dress code for those paying the pounds 5 admission charge.

(Photograph omitted)