British Horseracing Board Seeks Compensation from William Hil

21 June 2000
William Hill executives might be busy setting up new offices in Antigua for their online bookmaking operations, but a few lingering problems keep calling them back to Britain. The British Horseracing Board (BHB) says that it has begun legal proceedings in March against William Hill for obtaining pre-race data from the BHB's database for use on the bookmaker's Internet betting site.

"BHB spends over £4 million annually in compiling and maintaining the database which ensures that the information on race fixtures, race participants and races generally is accurate and reliable. Licenses for the use of this pre-race data (such as the name of the horse and its number running races) are granted as a way of recovering this cost for the benefit of racing," said BHB Chief Executive Tristram Ricketts.

The BHB wants a declaration of law under the 1998 Database Act to clarify that all information on its racing database is subject to copyright laws. More than a dozen Internet betting sites have been asked by the BHB to pay for using the pre-race data. Most have refused, although Victor Chandler and have agreed to pay. The BHB says that William Hill was targeted because it has an Internet presence in both the U.K. and internationally. The Board is hoping that both U.K. and international Internet sites will be required to pay for using information from the database.

"Typically, the BHB charges Internet sites one percent of their turnover for use of the pre-race data," said Simon Powell, BHB's Finance Director.

Payment for BHB's database information is no different than paying for football data, according to Ricketts. "How is it that bookmakers, who derive 70 percent of their turnover from British Horseracing, refuse to recognize BHB's rights in this data and yet are prepared to pay significant sums in copyright fees to the Football League for use of their Fixture List?" Ricketts said.

BHB officials expect the case to be heard sometime this year.

William Hill representatives were unavailable for comment.