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Europe delay costs racing

Racing is estimated to have missed out on a sum in excess of £1 million from the Grand National alone because of the delay in European approval for the government's reform of the levy system.

Racing's leaders remain hopeful approval is imminent so it can begin to receive a boost in income from all online betting on the sport.

It had been hoped that approval on state aid grounds would be received in time for last Saturday's Grand National, the biggest betting race of the season.

The law regarding the levy was changed at the end of last month when the House of Lords approved the government's plans to close the loophole that allowed bookmakers based offshore to avoid contributing from their profits on British horseracing.

However, the reforms cannot come into effect until approval is received from the European Commission.

At the time minister Lord Ashton of Hyde told the Lords: "We are confident that clearance will be received shortly."

Last week BHA chief executive Nick Rust told Racing UK there were "one or two things being considered in respect of the clearance but we expect it next week or the week after".

Under the reformed levy all betting operators will pay ten per cent of their gross profits on British horseracing above a £500,000 threshold.The sport believes it will benefit to the tune of between £30-40m per annum.

Missing the Grand National is likely to have put a dent in that figure for this levy period, although the effect will have been mitigated by payments from authorised betting partners (ABPs).

The effect would have been greater had there been a longer-priced winner than 14-1 chance One For Arthur and if less fancied horses than 8-1 favourite Blaklion and 16-1 shot Cause Of Causes had been placed.When Aurora's Encore won the race at 66-1 in 2013 it helped boost levy yield by around £3m.

Officials have been unwilling to put a figure on how much extra income a reformed levy might have raised from the Grand National.

However, with figures of £250m having been put on betting turnover for the Grand National, it is estimated that between £2-2.5m could have been raised from the levy on online operators.

But with more than half the online market being covered by ABPs, who have agreements to pay a percentage thought to be in the region of 7.5 per cent to racing, that figure would be reduced by around £1m.

The existing statutory levy system is set to continue until European approval is received.

11 April 2017

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