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Matt Hancock new culture secretary

There was good news for British racing in Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle as Matt Hancock, who is one of the sport's staunchest supporters in parliament and whose West Suffolk constituency includes Newmarket, was named as the new culture secretary.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which Hancock, 39, now heads, not only has responsibility for horseracing but also gambling and completing the reform of the levy.

He was already a junior minister within the culture department and his promotion to the cabinet comes following Karen Bradley's appointment as the new Northern Ireland secretary.

Former Racehorse Owners Association President Rachel Hood has described Hancock as having been instrumental in supporting racing's ultimately successful efforts to bring in the levy reforms instituted by the government last year.

In 2012 Hancock introduced a private members' bill, the Offshore Gambling Bill, which included the intention to amend the 2005 Gambling Act to "provide that all relevant operators contribute to the Horserace Betting Levy", although that did not make it into law at the time.

His interests in the sport also ran to partnering the John Gosden-trained Dick Doughtywylie to victory in a charity race on Newmarket's July course in 2012.

The DCMS is currently in the midst of a consultation on the second stage of the government's levy reforms, which will lead to the abolition of the Levy Board.

Hancock's department is also carrying out a consultation on the government's gambling review, including plans to reduce the maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to a figure between £2 and £50.

Reacting to the news, Association of British Bookmakers chairman Paul Darling said: "We welcome his appointment. He has a full understanding of the industry and its dynamics and we look forward to working with him."

There was no news on Monday evening on whether Tracey Crouch will retain her position as minister for sport and civil society, whose brief also includes gambling.

9 January 2018

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