BHB Responds to Budd Report

23 November 2001

"Racing is not afraid of competition, but it must be allowed to compete on a level playing field."
-Tristram Ricketts
British Horseracing Board

More than four months after the U.K. Gambling Review Body released its report (the Budd Report), the British Horseracing Board has countered with proposals of its own to change the racing and betting rules and regulations in England.

In its recently released "Memorandum to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport" (DCMS), the BHB takes aim at many issues, with person-to-person betting sites at the top of the list.

The BHB says it "welcomes" recommendations for strengthening consumer protection, but it has expressed serious concern that a number of the proposals in the Budd Report would lead to significant deregulation and diversification of gambling.

In a statement issued by the BHB, the group feels recommendations proposed in the Budd report to open up gambling could be the final blow to horseracing.

"Horseracing faces losing ground in the highly competitive gambling market if the deregulatory proposals recommended by the Gambling Review Body are implemented without measures of commensurate benefit to racing," the group said. "The GRB's rejection of BHB's recommendation that betting should be allowed in pubs and clubs, under properly controlled conditions, is particularly regretted, especially as the GRB's view is wholly inconsistent with its proposal that alcohol should be allowed on the gaming floor in casinos."

The BHB has also taken exception to P2P sites that are allowed to operate on the Internet without a betting license. These sites pit bettor with bettor instead of bettor with bookmaker and pay no betting tax.

"BHB is very concerned," the report said, "by the rapid growth in the turnover of person-to-person betting exchanges. These facilities pose risks to the integrity of racing, represent a threat to the revenues of government and racing, and effectively involve persons who are not licensed bookmakers acting as such. BHB therefore urges government to examine the operation of these exchanges with a view to introducing appropriate control and regulation of their activities."

BHB Secretary-General Tristram Ricketts said that his group welcomes competition but wants to see everyone playing by the same rules.

"Racing is not afraid of competition, but it must be allowed to compete on a level playing field," he said. "The GRB recommends significant deregulation for all categories of gambling, not only casinos but also bingo, gaming machines and society lotteries, as well as for betting generally, but without commensurate benefits for betting on horseracing."

He said that, since the horseracing industry employs more people and fuels more of the economy than any other form of gambling, the government should make sure it has a solid future.

"We welcome many of the GRB's recommendations which, particularly in the area of punter protection, are in line with our own proposals," he said. "However, domestic and overseas experience has shown that growth in other forms of gambling have a very negative impact on horserace betting, which, of all gambling media, supports the largest workforce. We look to government to take both a balanced view of the gambling market and careful note of the concerns which we, and no doubt others, are expressing."

Alan Delmonte, the BHB's communications manager, told the Financial Times of London this week that problems can arise when the middleman is taken out of the betting process.

"We have concerns at the potential integrity issues which arise from individuals having the ability to lay one particular horse to significant sums," he said. "We're not saying we want it to stop, but we feel current legislation does not necessarily respond flexibly to all new types of betting."

Click here to view the full report.