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RCA chair adds voice to calls to invest in growing betting on racing

Maggie Carver (second right): "pressing need for the industry to work with bookmakers to invest in initiatives to grow racing betting"
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There is a "pressing need" for British racing to work with bookmakers to help boost betting on the sport, the industry was told on Monday.

Racecourse Association (RCA) chair Maggie Carver was adding to similar calls from BHA chief executive Nick Rust, who recently said it was hoped additional funding could be agreed to promote racing betting.

Carver was speaking in the RCA's annual report in which she said 2017 had been a year of "solid achievement" for the organisation, which represents all British tracks with the exception of crisis-hit Towcester.

Among those achievements has been working with other stakeholders within the sport on the formation of the Racing Authority, which is due to take over the expenditure role of the Levy Board from April.

Carver said: "It will be critical for us to be disciplined and effective in the way income is spent."

She added: "As part of the new arrangements for the Racing Authority, the RCA has been at the forefront of setting up the Betting Liaison Group, which we hope will form the basis of a new and constructive relationship with bookmakers.

"Racing is critically dependent on betting income and there is a pressing need for the industry to work with bookmakers to invest in initiatives to grow racing betting."

Carver said a "Betting Innovation Group", reporting to the Betting Liaison Group, is being set up to help achieve that purpose.

It was estimated racing could lose between £40 million and £60m in income from the betting industry as a result of shop closures stemming from the government's decision to cut FOBT stakes to £2.

Partnership with the betting industry is one of the six headings under the RCA's latest operating plan set out by outgoing chief executive Stephen Atkin, which includes working on a "data warehouse" to help assess the impact on both industries of fixture list and race programming policies.

Stephen Atkin is standing down as chief executive of the Racecourse Association

Carver also spoke of the need for closer collaboration with others within racing and said: "We are working more closely now with the horsemen on joint initiatives to gather information which will better inform our decision-making and we are also looking more widely at demographic and attitudinal changes that will impact racing."

There was also an oblique reference to the crowd violence problems which hit British courses earlier this year.

Carver referred to last year's formation of a group to consider the image of racing. The group identified anti-social behaviour as a significant threat, leading to "the launch of new and enhanced campaigns for 2018 which proved prescient".

Atkin steps down after 18 years as RCA chief executive at the end of this week and thanked colleagues and the body's members in his report.

He said: "It has been the greatest privilege of my working career to serve members and their interests."

A successor for Atkin has not yet been found, although it is understood the recruitment process has started.


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