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Extension of levy is possible

Matthew-Hancock-MPThe Government has revealed it could look at extending the levy to bets on global racing placed in Britain, while also saying it could bring forward its commitment to review the rate of the levy, should the reduction in FOBT stakes dramatically alter the betting landscape.

The Government, which last year brought offshore firms into the levy net, which is expected to provide an extra £35 million in statutory funding this year, has committed to a levy review rate by 2024, but in a letter to BHA chairman Steve Harman, the culture secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) made clear that could shift, while the levy net might be widened again.

“If it becomes apparent that changes to stake limits cause significant market changes, then we will consider bringing forward the timing of the review of the levy arrangements,” he writes.

Hancock continues: “We want to allow April 2017 reforms to bed in and complete further administrative changes which will see racing take over responsibility for distributing the levy before making any final decisions.

“I have asked my officials to work with you and your team to look at how a levy on global racing bets placed in Britain could work within the current framework.

“More widely, the changes to stake limits will require parliamentary approval and we will want to engage with the gambling industry to ensure they are given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes.”

Harman is under pressure as chairman of the BHA, the well-publicised crisis having been precipitated by an investigation into allegations Harman had a conflict of interest when he twice had contact with Alex Frost, chief executive of the Alizeti consortium that is set to invest in the Tote in competition against the racecourse pool betting project Britbet, at the Cheltenham Festival.

Hancock, however, signs off his letter to Harman with the words: “I look forward to receiving further details on some of the proposals set out in your letter andworking with you in this role for a long time to come.”

Harman said:“We are grateful to the secretary of state for his continued commitment to our industry. His letter today shows how he is planning to further support racing jobs, the rural economy and our future sustainability. We support his desire to reduce problem-gambling without harming Britain’s second-biggest spectator sport”.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust added: “It is too early to say what the financial impact for racing will be [from the reduction in FOBT stakes]. Our estimates before today’s decision ranged from £40-£60m per year, once the impact of the changes has filtered through into racing.

"These estimates did not take into account the Secretary of State’s suggestion that the levy could be extended to bets on global racing which could partially offset any reduction. We are also encouraged by the secretary of state’s reference to a period of transition which will allow time for racing and betting to adjust.”

 17 May 2018

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