Bookmakers agree online fee boost to racing to help compensate for shop closures
Bookmakers have agreed to increase the amount they pay racing on their streaming and data deals until December 2 to help mitigate the impact from betting shop closures during the second lockdown in England.
Agreements have been reached with Racecourse Media Group (RMG), which provides streaming and data to bookmakers from 35 British tracks – including those under the Jockey Club banner, Goodwood, Newbury and York - and all 26 Irish racecourses.
Deals with At The Races, which represents the rights of the remaining British tracks including Arena Racing Company's courses, are understood to be close to completion.
Similar agreements were reached during the summer when racing resumed before betting shops reopened after the first national lockdown.
It is estimated the lockdown, which started on November 5, could cost British racing up to £12.5 million in lost media rights and levy payments. These agreements are expected to cover between 50 and 60 per cent of the lost betting shop media rights payments.
Newbury chief executive Julian Thick thanked bookmakers for their increased contribution but warned it would not cover the loss courses face from betting shops being closed.
Racecourses are already facing huge financial difficulties with half their income being lost because of the ongoing ban on crowds at elite sports events.
Thick said: "This additional funding will be much valued by racecourses but it won’t plug the hole left by lost revenues from LBO [licensed betting office] closures for the next month.
"Make no mistake, racecourses are really suffering at the moment, and the return of crowds is absolutely critical to us operating but we are grateful for the betting industry's support throughout the difficulties of the Covid-19 crisis."
Even when lockdown ends, betting shops are not guaranteed to reopen en masse as they had already been forced to shut their doors in areas designated as Tier 3, despite having previously been classed as part of non-essential retail.
Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher said: "There has always been a close relationship between betting and racing. So, with the government’s ongoing Covid restrictions affecting the sport so severely, it’s welcome that bookmakers are stepping up to further support the sport.
"This extra funding for streaming and data rights will undoubtedly help racing's finances for the next month and I’m delighted to see BGC members assisting the sport in this way."
Dugher said the betting industry would continue to make the case for betting shops to be allowed to reopen, in line with the rest of non-essential retail, once the national lockdown ends, and also that socially distanced crowds return to race meetings "as soon as possible".
He added: "I'm equally sure that the whole of racing will be making the case ahead of the government’s gambling review that a healthy betting industry is critical to the future of the sport."
RMG commercial director Nick Mills also expressed his gratitude to the operators who had agreed to pay an increased fee for the watch-and-bet service.
He added: "This shows what can be achieved by racing and betting working effectively together, which is especially important in these times."
Join Members' Club Ultimate and read tipping from the likes of Pricewise and Paul Kealy, all the big interviews and features, daily comment and news analysis – plus our Ultimate Daily newsletter. Click here to sign up.