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Levy Board set to continue

Paul-LeeThe Levy Board is set to continue for the foreseeable future after the Government confirmed it had withdrawn the legislation which would have led to the body's abolition on 1 April.

Following the news, ministers were told to leave the Levy Board alone and avoid further "tinkering" by one politician.

The government introduced the first stage of reforms of British racing's central funding system in 2017, when it extended the levy to include betting operators based overseas.

Last autumn the government began the second stage of its planned reforms which would have led to the abolition of the Levy Board, with its collection duties taken on by the Gambling Commission and responsibility for spending decisions given to a new Racing Authority largely made up of representatives of the sport.

However, the secondary legislation it introduced– known as a legislative reform order (LRO)– was halted by objections on procedural reasons from a joint committee of MPs and peers.

Following that rejection, the government has said it has withdrawn the LRO and evidently chosen not to pursue primary legislation to make the changes at this stage, although the levy will remain under government review.

A DCMS spokesperson said: "Our reforms to the Horserace Betting Levy have already resulted in an extra £45 million to support the racing industry.

"We'll continue to work with the Levy Board and the racing industry to explore ways to maximise the benefits of the reformed levy to ensure it continues to deliver for the sector."

Lord Lipsey, who had opposed the government's plans, welcomed the news.

He said: "The government has bowed to the inevitable by dropping this misconceived proposal.

"The Levy Board must now be allowed to get on with the job without further tinkering from ministers."

Levy Board chairman Paul Lee (pictured) said the body would continue to work closely with government.

Lee said: "We're thinking carefully about the implications for the HBLB following the government's decision not to pursue its LRO.

"Revenues have been very significantly enhanced by the changes made to the system and we'll now work closely with government to ensure the industry as a whole benefits from the stability which the decision not to pursue further reforms brings.

"In short we'll keep calm and carry on, as we've always done. I'm enormously grateful to all our staff for having kept the show on the road in very difficult times and great uncertainty for them."

Reacting to the news, a BHA spokesman added: "We had a positive meeting with DCMS ministers last month, at which we explained that we're willing to be pragmatic as to the next stages of levy reform and understand the reasons behind the withdrawal of the Legislative Reform Order.

"We continue our discussions with DCMS and colleagues at the Levy Board."

6 February 2019

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