New-look levy could yield £95m for sport's coffers
The new-look levy has brought in more income than expected for British racing, according to the latest estimate.
The Levy Board, which met this week, said that racing's central funding system had yielded more than £90 million and could even reach around £95m in its first year since the government's reforms which brought offshore-based operators who had previously not had to pay into the levy net.
However, there was a warning to racing not to set those figures as a benchmark as results had favoured bookmakers more than usual since the turn of the year.
Last year the Levy Board said early indications suggested income from the reformed levy could reach around £85m, having fallen to £49.8m in 2016-17. Levy yield last totalled more than £90m in 2008-09, when it reached £91.6m.
Levy Board chief executive Alan Delmonte said: "Levy income for the full 12-month period April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 is looking like being above £90m and perhaps in the region of £95m. This includes £5m in levy and voluntary contributions for the 24-day period to April 24 before the new levy arrangements came in.
"Our board noted last May that £90m was a fair estimate for the full year. It then agreed a prudent £85m for the purposes of setting a 2018 expenditure budget.
"We are still in the process of getting in returns and audited certificates as well as doing other checks and so any figure is not final."
William Hill referred to "very strong" horseracing results when giving a trading update this month, although both Hills and Paddy Power Betfair also mentioned the high number of race meetings lost to the weather.
Delmonte added: "As this is the first year of the new arrangements and we do not have prior years' trends analysis for the actual figures of most online businesses, we are advising caution before assuming any figure is seen as a benchmark.
"There have been reports of particularly strong margins this year, but against that there were significantly more abandoned fixtures.
"Once we have a near-final outturn in June, the board can begin to consider an appropriate level of reserves to hold, and an expenditure budget for 2019."
Bookmakers have claimed the levy will be hit should large numbers of betting shops close, as expected, following the government cutting FOBT stakes to £2.
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