Government levy plans receive cross-party support
The government's plans for levy replacement received support from across the political spectrum when debated by a House of Commons committee on Monday.
The passage of the secondary legislation, which will bring in a major boost to the sport's finances, should be completed in parliament this week, although it must still receive approval on state aid grounds from Europe in order to come into force in time for the government's target date of Saturday.
The new system will extend the levy to remote operators based offshore, closing a loophole that has led to the loss of millions of pounds from British racing's finances, with the sport's leaders believing the new system should bring in between £30 million and £40m extra per year.
The statutory instrument (SI), entitled The Horserace Betting Levy Regulations 2017, was debated by the Commons Delegated Legislation Committee at which sports minister Tracey Crouch said: "These reforms will create a level playing field between all betting operators.
"It will provide a fair return to racing and ensure that the industry can continue to be the home of the best quality racing in the world for years to come."
Crouch said officials had been in extensive contact with the European Commission and she was confident the government's plans would receive state aid clearance "shortly".
She added: "To be perfectly honest, we would not have brought forward these regulations to this House if we did not have that confidence."
Labour supported the plans as shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said it was "our duty to ensure a level playing field across all markets including gambling".
She added: "This means bringing the horserace betting levy into the 21st Century, where online bookmakers are required to contribute just as high street bookmakers are."
Allin-Khan did question the minister on a number of points, including asking why the government had not sought to introduce a greyhound racing levy and also asking what provisions had been made for extra money to be contributed to equine welfare.
Guy Opperman, the Conservative MP for Hexham who is also an amateur rider, said of the government's plans: "This is the result of a long campaign, and is great news for the racing industry.
"As the only qualified and active jockey in the House of Commons, I am delighted that the Conservative government have finally reformed the levy. This is going to make a significant difference to the finances of racing."
Having passed the Commons stage the SI will next be subject to a short debate and vote in the House of Lords on Wednesday night.