New UK Horse Racing Levy Could Prompt Legal Challenge from British Bookies

The UK horse racing industry looks set to change the amount operators have to pay on their profits if new proposals pass the European Union’s state aid rules.

UK bookmakers against racing levy.

British operators may be poised to take legal action if a new horse racing levy is passed by the EU. (Image: skysports.com)

Under the new proposals, UK and offshore betting operators will have to pay a 10 percent levy on their gross profits above £500,000 from April 1 to support the racing industry.

Despite operators sponsoring racing events across the UK and Ireland, the new rules would mean they’ll have to contribute more to the pot.

As it stands, only UK-based operators have been required to contribute to the racing industry. However, following a review of the 1961 law, the government announced in March 2016 that it would be expanding the levy in a bid to preserve the future of British racing.

Operators Facing New Challenges

In response to the proposed system, operators have threatened legal action with the Association of British Bookmakers suggesting the new charge could have a negative “cumulative impact” on all areas of the industry.

At this stage, EU approval will take a few months and which means the April deadline likely won’t be met. However, should the 10 percent levy be enforced, it could result in a lengthy legal battle between UK operators, the racing industry and the government.

On top of calls for new fees to support UK racing, the Gambling Commission is preparing to impose stiffer fines on operators that fail to tackle problem gambling. In a report expected this month, the Gambling Commission has suggested it will do away with the current system of reaching settlements for compliance failures.

Speaking to industry members ahead of the report’s publication, Gambling Commission chef executive Sarah Harrison said that “higher penalties” and “licence reviews” would be used as tools to punish infringements.

With problem gambling being one of the hot topics surrounding the industry in 2016, the Gambling Commission will be more likely to suspend or revoke licences moving forward. Indeed, part of its mission is to set the standard for gambling regulation and that means making responsible gaming a top priority.

William Hill Sees the Lighter Side of TV Racing Dispute

In other, slightly more bizarre news this week, William Hill has been accused of using unacceptable tactics to lure punters into its shops. With rivals Ladbrokes-Coral and Betfred unable to show live Racing Partnership TV races because of a dispute over fees, William Hill is reportedly urging staff to take advantage of the situation.

In a memo obtain by The Guardian, staff are being asked to take the “torch challenge” and “get disruptive.” The idea behind the anarchy is to lure customer out of a rival betting shop by shining a light through the window. After capturing a punter’s attention, staff can then inform them that racing is still available to watch at William Hill (not part of the dispute).

A spokesperson for William Hill has described the PR effort as “a bit of fun,” but anti-gambling advocates like Labour MP Carolyn Harris have described it as “appalling.” Whichever way you look at it, it’s certainly one of the strangest marketing moves we’ve heard of in recent times.

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