Israeli gambling crackdown spares British racing
Anti-gambling legislation in Israel which could have cost British racing's finances millions of pounds has spared the sport, for now.
Israel's slot and keno machines were closed down at midnight on Saturday as part of finance minister Moshe Kahlon's campaign against state-sponsored gambling.
However, Kahlon had also called for betting on horseracing to be banned along with the machines from the start of this year, describing the revenues of 460 million shekels (approximately £97m/€114m) it generated as "tainted money".
That would have wiped out the business built up by GBI Racing, the joint venture between Racing UK's parent company Racecourse Media Group and At The Races, and the British Tote.
Live racing action from Britain is provided by the Israel Sports Betting Board under its brand Toto in a deal with GBI, while the Tote in Britain processes bets understood to be worth more than £50m a year.
GBI's territory director James Singer said they had been active for "several months" in supporting Israeli sports minister Miri Regev's challenge to gambling reform in Israel.
He added: "We have made strong representations to the Israeli government and the Knesset. An immediate ban on horserace betting, proposed by the finance ministry’s 2017 budget and Arrangement Law process, was overturned by the chairman of the Knesset, Mr Yuli Edelstein, in early November.
"The issue is now being addressed by the Reform Committee, chaired by Eli Cohen MK, with initial meetings planned this week and next.
"We are very proud of the partnership we have with the Israel Sports Betting Board, whose profits fund sports and community causes in Israel to the tune of £100m annually."
GBI, which has a contract with ISBB until 2018, has made a considerable investment in providing a system that includes betting-shop terminals with content translated into Hebrew. Revenues are believed to be running close to £4m a year.