BHA welcomes government move to examine levy reform in 2021
Reform of the levy to ease racing's funding crisis moved a step closer on Tuesday when the government revealed it would re-examine the way the sport is funded next year instead of 2024.
News of the move was welcomed across the sport, which has been campaigning for reform of British racing's central funding system to combat the financial blow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
BHA chief executive Nick Rust, who steps down from his role later this month, said the sport was looking forward to working with ministers and officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the levy in 2021.
The levy was last reformed in 2017 when it was extended to capture a share of the money bet on British racing with bookmakers based offshore.
In two of the last three years the changes have led to the levy yielding more than £45 million extra compared to pre-reform levels.
However, the sport has been calling for the government to revisit the subject of the levy, targeting further reforms which would extend it to bets placed on foreign racing and switching to a system based on turnover rather than gross profits which could bring in tens of millions of pounds of extra income.
When the 2017 reforms were enacted they included a pledge that the sports minister would review the levy rate within seven years of the legislation coming into force, "to ensure that it reflects any future changes in the market".
However, in the debate following Nigel Huddleston's statement to the Commons on the government's review of the Gambling Act, the sports minister revealed that, although the levy would not be included in that work, ministers would look again at the levy next year.
Rust said: "We welcome the announcement from the minister that DCMS will examine in 2021 the timetable for reviewing the levy.
"Racing industry leaders agreed that there was an urgent case for reform as part of our plans to recover from Covid-19 and have presented a united front to government.
"As the minister outlined in the House today, there are ongoing conversations between the BHA and government on levy reform. We look forward to working with DCMS officials and ministers in 2021 to ensure that the levy is sustainable and fit for the digital age."
Rust also welcomed further details of the 16-week call for evidence which kicks off the government's review of the Gambling Act, which is set to cover areas affecting the sport such as betting sponsorship, gambling advertising and affordability checks.
He said: "Betting on horseracing is enjoyed by millions of people safely and responsibly, with a low prevalence for gambling related harm.
"Despite the low levels of problem gambling in the sport, racing promotes responsible gambling and is committed to working with the betting industry to further reduce risk.
"We will also work closely with our partners in the betting and racing industry to formulate our response to the consultation."
Rust said the sport was looking forward to proposals that were "proportionate and focused on those at risk".
He added: "We know the government is aware of the potential impact on related industries such as British racing and the 80,000 livelihoods it supports.
"The minister, Nigel Huddleston, made clear in his address that the challenging conditions that sports find themselves in, and the importance of legitimate commercial relationships between sport and gambling, will be considered as part of the review."
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