Racing to sound out bookmakers over new relationship
The first moves towards creating a body combining racing and bookmakers to develop and promote betting on the sport are set to be made this week.
Representatives of British racing will be contacting operators to establish a betting and racing liaison group integral to the structure set to replace the Levy Board from 2019.
There have been calls from both racing and betting for such a development, with Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint asking for a formal body representing both sides to be created in his speech at last year's Gimcrack Dinner at York.
More recently Ladbrokes chief executive Jim Mullen said the resolution of the levy reforms and the authorised betting partner scheme meant both sides could begin working together.
As the second part of the levy reforms introduced by the government this year, from 2019 the Levy Board's responsibility for collecting funding from bookmakers will be taken on by the Gambling Commission, while a new Racing Authority representing the BHA, racecourses and Horsemen's Group will be in charge of spending.
The authority has been meeting in shadow for some time, although the search for an independent chair is ongoing.
BHA chief executive Nick Rust said on Wednesday: "One of the things that has been agreed in principle, subject to discussions with betting operators, is the establishment of a betting and racing liaison group that would sit as a sub-committee under the Racing Authority.
"We would propose bringing in – and this is what we want to talk to betting operators about – four or five operators who represent the breadth of the industry, so digital and retail and a balance of types of betting and business levels."
Rust said the betting operators on the group would be involved in decision making about racing's policy on betting.
He added: "We want them to be willing to give data and insight so as we try things we can learn whether it is working or not, adapt and move on.
"It would also be a place where political discussions could be managed about how we might approach things with other organisations, such as government, and also perhaps where innovation can be discussed.
"So this week we are speaking to leaders of the major organisations who serve British customers to sound them out, to explain how we see it and to ask if they are interested in coming along. Once we have done that exercise we will write formally to the operators inviting them to take part."
Although Rust said the Racecourse Association and its chairman Maggie Carver had been a driving force behind the body, he emphasised that it had the backing of the three main groups forming British racing's tripartite structure.
He added: "Now the principle has been established that a centralised payment made to racing, irrespective of the betting channel, has been set, then now is absolutely the right time for racing to come forward and say [to bookmakers] we are going to put our heart and soul into working with you and assisting you to develop your businesses alongside us."