Senior figures voice disappointment over collapse of levy talks and loss of 'desperately' needed funding

The government must rein in the Gambling Commission before catastrophic damage is done to the regulated bookmaking sector
Talks between racing and bookmakers to agree a new levy deal collapsed this weekCredit: Edward Whitaker (

British racing's participants and racecourses have voiced their disappointment over the collapse of talks with bookmakers to agree a new deal on the levy, the sport's central funding system.

Discussions between the two sides have been taking place for several months and an update was expected from the government this week.

However, prime minister Rishi Sunak's decision to call a snap general election for July resulted in the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) announcing that a deal could not be reached.  

There was disagreement between the two sides as to how close to an agreement they had come. BHA chief executive Julie Harrington claimed on Thursday a deal had been agreed between racing and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which they had hoped would be announced that day, but the BGC had withdrawn its support because of the election. 

However, the BGC claimed that was untrue, saying that "nothing was agreed until everything was agreed" and that point had not been reached by the time the election was called.

It is understood that additional funding amounting to more than £20 million in the first year was on the table as part of any agreement.

Thoroughbred Group chairman Julian Richmond-Watson said: "We are very disappointed when it appeared that we were so close to an agreement and a ministerial statement, but we are a victim of circumstances.

Julian Richmond-Watson: concerned how affordability checks are impacting owners
Julian Richmond-Watson: "we are victims of circumstances"Credit: Sarah Farnsworth

"This is money that the industry and its participants desperately need to bolster prize-money and sustain our sport. We can only hope a future government will expedite levy negotiations and agree the funding as quickly as possible."

One of the issues in reaching an agreement was a proposal for a further wide-ranging review into British racing's financial model suggested by the DCMS, with which the BGC was unhappy. Proposals to extend the levy to include betting on international racing by British punters is likely to have been part of that review, an issue about which bookmakers have been implacably opposed.

Racecourse Association chief executive David Armstrong had been closely involved in the talks. Reacting to the news of their collapse, he said: "We have all worked very hard and we are very disappointed, just as the BHA is. We do look forward to the opportunity to work with a new government after the election."

He added: "It was taken out of our hands because it was the election that caused this to happen, so you cannot blame anyone else, but the BGC wording is a bit off the mark."

The government began a review of the levy system 12 months ago, having promised to ensure racing did not suffer financially from the effects of the affordability checks contained in its gambling white paper.

Read these next:

BHA 'hugely disappointed' as levy talks founder following general election announcement 

General election called for July 4 as government pledges levy update 'very shortly' and reiterates affordability promise 

Levy yield set to rise £5 million to £105m in 2023-24 but board warns of long-term challenge ahead 

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Industry editor

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