BHA delighted with the promotion of Matt Hancock to culture secretary
Matt Hancock's promotion to culture secretary in prime minister Theresa May's reshuffle has been warmly welcomed by the BHA.
Hancock, whose West Suffolk constituency includes Newmarket, is regarded as one of racing's biggest supporters in parliament.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has responsibility for not only racing but also gambling matters. Tracey Crouch, the minister with direct responsibility for sport and gambling, confirmed on Wednesday that she retained her position at the department.
Hancock's promotion to the cabinet came following Karen Bradley's appointment as the new Northern Ireland secretary, and BHA chairman Steve Harman paid tribute to both.
He said: "We're delighted with the appointment of Matt Hancock as secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport. I would like to thank Karen Bradley for her tremendous support for this industry. Through the levy replacement, Karen and Tracey Crouch have delivered a landmark improvement for the industry and we wish Karen the best in her new role.
"Matt has been a key supporter and driver for racing, has put grassroots growth first, and is very close to our strategy for growth in rural economies, small businesses and jobs. This is an industry supporting almost 100,000 jobs and 14,000 small businesses, contributing over £3 billion to the economy.
"Matt is also very close to his constituents in Newmarket and has a strong knowledge of staffing, welfare and equine priorities. He’s also in touch with other issues for racing such as Brexit, betting and the significant charitable agenda within the sport."
'Record speaks for itself'
One of those Newmarket constituents is former Racehorse Owners Association president Rachel Hood, who described Hancock's promotion as very positive for the sport.
She said: "He's been a superb local MP and I think he's a very impressive individual. His record speaks for itself.
"He's been extremely supportive of racing and I think what's important too is that he understands the dynamics of the industry and gets the bigger picture.
"I think everybody in racing will see it as a very positive appointment."
The DCMS is in the midst of a wide-ranging consultation on gambling which closes on January 23, with its highest-profile issue being the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.
The stake is set to be cut from the current maximum of £100, with the consultation setting out four options ranging from £2 – which bookmakers have claimed would cause thousands of betting shops to close – up to £50.
Analysts at Dublin-based stockbrokers Goodbody said Hancock was seen as "business-friendly", adding: "It's fair to say his appointment is more positive for the industry than negative."
However, Crouch is regarded as being a supporter of a major cut in FOBT stakes.
Crouch said in a tweet she was delighted to be staying on as minister for sports and civil society, adding: "So much on the agenda for the incredible sectors I'm responsible for and am looking forward to continuing to work in partnership with some amazing people, charities and organisations throughout 2018."
Bookmaker share prices were largely unchanged on Tuesday, with William Hill down 0.8p at 327.7p, Ladbrokes Coral down 0.85p at 183.05p and Paddy Power Betfair up 5p at £88.00.