Senior officials at the Racecourse Association yesterday expressed
"outrage" after a cross-party Parliamentary committee suggested that on-course
bookmakers should be compensated - by the tracks if necessary - to ensure that
they do not lose out when rules for the administration of betting rings change
The report by MPs on
the Culture, Media and Sport committee is a resounding endorsement of the
campaign by on-course bookies to retain the right to buy and sell their "picks"
for positions in the ring. Picks have been bought and sold for the past 10
years, with the most sought-after positions, at Cheltenham and Ascot, often
selling for £100,000 or more. Most bookies believed they bought their
picks "in perpetuity" and expected to be able to cash in on their investment if
The Gambling Act 2005 makes no provision for this system to
continue indefinitely, and the RCA told the bookies' trade organisation last
year that courses wanted to negotiate a commercial rate for betting rights from
September 1, 2012. The value of "picks" dropped by up to 40%, and many bookies,
at least one of whom has invested nearly £1m in picks, feared that their
value would ultimately vanish.
Having heard evidence from all interested parties, the CMS committee
appears to have come down on the side of the bookies. Its report expresses
disappointment at the RCA's attitude, suggesting that "negotiations would have
progressed much more smoothly if the RCA had taken a less confrontational
Its key conclusion from the bookmakers' point of view,
though, is that "considerable amounts have been invested by those who have
bought lists positions under the existing system in good faith and this cannot
be ignored". The reports adds: "If racecourses wish to move to a fully
commercial relationship for the allocation and pricing of pitch positions, we
believe that they should compensate list position holders for their losses."
This suggestion enraged the RCA. "The RCA is disappointed that a
parliamentary select committee has misunderstood the facts and tried to
interfere in the way in which independent businesses will engage in commercial
activities in 2012," David Thorpe, the RCA's chairman, said.
suggestion that racecourses should compensate bookmakers is nothing short of
outrageous. Racecourses have never benefited from the trading of list positions
between bookmakers who have had many, many years of commercial benefit from
trading on course and paying to racecourses a nominal fixed charge."
The Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers reacted to the report with
delight. "We welcome the fact the select committee report has comprehensively
supported the FRB's position," Robin Grossmith, a director of the organisation,
said. "All we want is fair play and justice."
The bookies had more to
celebrate at Huntingdon, where the opening race saw 50-1 chance Space Mission
hold off the challenge of I Have Dreamed, the 13-8 favourite. "He just needed
time," Paul Webber, his trainer, said. "I think he's going to be very, very