Levy Board to consider 'significant investment' with income forecast to be £80m
Income from the levy for the last financial year is expected to be around £80 million – the midpoint of the Levy Board's most recent estimated range of £76m to £85m – despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Levy Board, which has had to take on extra responsibility for funding prize-money while racecourse finances have been hit by the absence of paying customers, said the likely return would give it flexibility over its expenditure options in the coming months.
The figure is based on provisional submissions from bookmakers, including all the largest operators. It would be the lowest yield since the government's reforms to British racing's central funding system which came into force in 2017 and which captured money bet with bookmakers based offshore for the first time. The 2019-20 figure was £98m.
Racing did not take place for the first two months of the last levy year, meaning the loss of the Grand National, while betting shops have been closed or operating under restrictions for much of the period.
Levy Board chairman Paul Darling said: "There was no British racing for the first two months of the levy year and it was far from certain when racing resumed in June 2020 as to what the level of betting activity would be in the months that followed. We have also seen licensed betting offices either closed completely for parts of the year or open with restrictions.
"Since June, we have attempted to balance on the one hand our desire to commit substantial extra support for the sport from our reserves with, on the other hand, the uncertainty around our own ongoing future income."
Darling said the Levy Board had spent £96m in the past levy year, providing around 50 per cent more to prize-money than normal in recent months, as well as £3m towards the costs of new measures to ensure the sport could take place in accordance with Covid-19 protocols.
He added: "On the basis of £80m income, our reserves at the end of the 2020-21 levy year stood at just over £40m. This will give us the flexibility to consider further significant investment in the months ahead, as the board has had in mind the importance of having sufficient resources for the recovery phase from Covid-19."
BHA executive director Will Lambe said the figures demonstrated how racing provided a "fun and responsible way" to enjoy betting for the public, and thanked the sport's participants, the media, the Levy Board and the betting industry for their contribution.
"These results demonstrate the potential for growing the public’s engagement in racing, the benefits this can bring to the tens of thousands of people employed in both our industries and to the country as whole, especially in rural economies," he added.
The BHA said the sport had been developing proposals to put to the Levy Board for using the £21m of loan funding due to be received from the UK government and that industry executives will also be examining the detailed figures for betting on racing over the past year as part of the work towards longer-term reform of the levy.
Lambe added: "As British racing battles to recover from the financial impact of Covid, this is an encouraging moment as we strive to achieve better funding for our world-class industry, including a fair and sustainable levy."
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