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'It was like herding cats' - how racing and betting fought a long (and fruitless) battle inside the corridors of power

Lee Mottershead talks to leading industry figures about frustrating and fraught levy negotiations

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Senior writer

Televisions in the Palace of Westminster were not showing the Nell Gwyn Stakes. A few minutes earlier the Guineas trial had been run at Newmarket, but matters of greater significance were about to be discussed in London. Not for the first or last time in the latest levy saga, what transpired was more than a little frustrating.

At 3.45pm a delegation of British racing's senior leaders and stakeholders entered Lucy Frazer's small office at the back of the House of Commons. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's secretary of state had set aside an hour to talk about pressing matters, not least the ongoing failure of racing and betting to reach agreement on levy reform. Bookmakers had by now made three offers, none of which was deemed acceptable. The two camps remained far apart but Frazer wanted a deal to be struck, not least because so did her boss.

A year had passed since the government began a review of the levy system alongside its commitment to help racing survive the financial onslaught caused by affordability checks. Bookmakers had volunteered to increase the levy on their profits from ten to 11 per cent, but with the additional money ringfenced for a new fund to be used specifically for marketing the sport. When that was rejected, the Betting and Gaming Council proposed that its members would additionally underwrite future media rights payments up to the equivalent of one per cent of levy. Based on the £100 million 2022-23 levy yield, the BGC argued those two strands equated to a £20m commitment.

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