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President calls for Levy rethink

 2 July 2019 – The President of the Racehorse Owners Association has called for a return to a levy based on betting turnover, rather than the current system of gross profits.

Nicholas Cooper said at his association’s Annual General Meeting in London that by continuing with the outdated current gross profits model, the levy is likely to suffer. He told his audience of ROA members and racing industry leaders: “In 2001 it was attractive for racing to agree with government and the betting industry to switch the levy to 10% of gross profits.

“The betting exchanges were barely on the horizon and few could have predicted the extent to which this brilliant concept would become so central to the whole betting system in this country or how in the intervening years they would drive down the profit margins to which bookmakers bet.

“Annual horserace betting is currently around £12billion. Even as little as 1% of turnover would produce a levy of £120m, which would be the highest-ever figure, and over £40m more than the most recent levy yield.

“Serious discussion needs to be had on a return to a levy based on betting turnover rather than gross profits – or on some form of in-between hybrid system – to provide a much truer reflection of racing’s continuing worth to the betting industry.”

Mr Cooper said that continued close links with government would be required to “impress on politicians of every political persuasion that the racing industry is crucial both to the rural economy and to rural employment. That racing represents the acceptable face of betting; that it creates the best possible welfare environment for both staff and horses; and that it is open and inclusive in embracing people of all social standings and minority groups.”

He continued: “It is clear to me that government help and support is also dependent on the racing industry working together and certainly not delivering conflicting messages as it used to do. It is why I believe horsemen and racecourses must continue to show a united front, even when it sometimes gets very difficult.”

He noted that this was especially true of Media Rights – now thought to be worth in the region of £150m annually. “Owners and the horsemen believe it would be fair and just if 50% of this money went into prize-money and appearance money because it is our horses, our trainers, our jockeys and our stable staff which allow racecourses to earn these impressive sums of money.”

Mr Cooper ended by highlighting the untapped potential of the Tote in the new digital age. During Royal Ascot week, the Tote Win dividend exceeded the starting price in 16 of the 30 races. This was aided by the first regular co-mingling of the pools from other countries (including Hong Kong and China) for Royal Ascot week.

“If we can replicate what Ascot did at other major meetings, why wouldn’t more people start gravitating towards betting on the Tote?”

“The Tote has often been referred to as British racing’s ‘sleeping giant’. Now, with digital technology knowing no bounds, we can see this giant is waking up.”

For further information, please contact:

Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association, on 020 7152 0200 or

About the Racehorse Owners Association:

The ROA has been promoting the interests of racehorse owners in Great Britain since 1945 and has a membership of 8,000. It is one of the British Horseracing Authority’s shareholders and a member of the Horsemen’s Group.

It plays a central role in British racing politics and finance. The ROA has a Board of 12 members, who are elected through ballot amongst all members of the ROA. The current ROA President is Nicholas Cooper. The ROA is funded almost entirely from membership income.

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