A big Levy increase would come at expense of punters
the basis that if you don't ask, you don't get, the racing industry deserves
some respect for its submission to the government last week which politely
requested a rise of between 40% and 60% in the Levy, the money raised for the
sport from off-course bookmakers. When it comes to unfettered optimism, the
bloke in the betting shop filling out a Round Robin has nothing on this
of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport
It now seems probable
that the views of the independent members of the Levy Board will prevail on the
matter, and the old scheme will simply be rolled over for another year, so we
are unlikely to ever discover quite what the people in charge would have done
with such an astonishing boost to their income.
Rather like the paper
they are written on, though, ideas like this one have a habit of being
recycled. We could well see it again this time next year, so it bears closer
inspection. Forewarned, after all, is forearmed.
IAnd if that makes it sound like an extra
£40m would be something other than good news for racing, it is worth
remembering where this money would actually be coming from.
the Levy. They always have, and they always will. It is their contribution to
the sport that gives them their fun, and there can be no complaints about that.
The owners do something similar at the other end of the industry with their
training and entry fees, and everyone in between - bookies included - is in
racing to get out what they can.
Punters get some of their money back
in winnings, while owners hope to receive prize money, but in the end, these
two groups are the major net contributors whose investment keeps the whole show
on the road.
While the whole Levy process seems complicated, it is
effectively a question of the degree to which ordinary punters, most of them on
average or below- average wages, should subsidise the owners, people who -
again on average - are doing rather better when it comes to disposable income.
If there were any evidence of a flight from racing by owners, then a
40% hike in the Levy might at least be an arguable proposition. But the
opposite seems to be true, with horses balloted out of low-grade races at the
all-weather tracks on an almost daily basis.
It was also telling that
the racing submission sought an increase in the amount of Levy paid by betting
exchanges - which still effectively means Betfair - from £6m to
Exchanges have been a wonderful innovation for all punters,
even those who would not be able to find the "on" switch on a computer.
Their impact on the on-course market has fed into the off-course
starting prices, giving punters a better deal for their money, while the
imminent arrival of the Betfair SP should also help to keep the greedier
elements of the racing industry "honest".
It is a thought worth bearing
in mind, if only because you never know when you might find a millionaire with
their hand in your pocket.