British Court Rules against William Hill in Racing Data Case

12 February 2001
In a case the British press is calling "a watershed," Great Britain's High Court has ruled that the use of the British Horseracing Board's database of racing information without payment is unlawful. The decision’s immediate effect is to stop bookmaker William Hill from extracting such information, but it has implications for other information gatherers.

A judge in London held that the Hill organization had illegally extracted copyrighted information from the Horseracing Board, information that which costs the Board $5.8 million a year and takes 80 employees to maintain. The case was a key one for the Board, which depends on fees charged for its information for much of its income.

The case stemmed from William Hill--the world’s second largest bookmaker behind Ladbrokes--receiving the information indirectly from a satellite information service for use on its Internet sites. The court ruled that loading the information onto Hill computers for use on websites was an unlicensed act of extracting and re-utilizing a substantial part of the Horseracing Board’s database.

The Board, according to reports, is about to be privatized, and betting duties in Great Britain either will shrink or disappear in the face of an exodus of Internet gambling sites to other locations outside of Great Britain.

The London Daily Telegraph noted that the case was the first of its kind, since "the area of Internet law is necessarily sketchy" because of the pace of development of the Internet.

Bettors in Britain have to pay 9 percent to bet at home, but only 3 percent with overseas bookmakers.