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Open Letter to Bookmakers

Paul Darling OBE QC

Chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) Ltd

 

Clive Hawkswood

Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association

31st May 2018

Dear Paul and Clive

I am writing on behalf of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) to express our serious concern and disappointment that despite extensive discussions and negotiations with the Bookmaking Industry over the last few years we have been unsuccessful, to date, in persuading all Bookmakers to pay into the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF) on all of their greyhound turnover, including on-line.

As you are more than aware, Greyhound Racing relies heavily on the Bookmaking Industry to pay a contribution based, in our case, on a percentage of turnover of greyhound bets into the industry. That contribution is currently voluntary for Greyhound Racing, whereas the Horse Racing Industry is supported by a statutory levy.

As has been well documented, the BGRF’s income has declined from circa £14 million in 2008 (£17 million in today’s terms) to £7.2 million in 2017, reflecting the migration of betting turnover from retail to online and mobile platforms. Until this year, with the notable exception of bet365, none of the major Bookmaker companies have included the turnover of their online betting operations in their voluntary contributions. In addition some major betting companies do not pay any voluntary levy, or only pay it on part of their estate.

This has resulted in a funding crisis for the sport, which will seriously undermine the Greyhound Board’s ability to maintain its welfare and integrity commitments.

In late 2015 the Greyhound Board and bookmakers gave evidence to the EFRA Select Committee’s inquiry into Greyhound Welfare. When the Committee published its report in February 2016 it was unequivocal in its call for all bookmakers to pay and increase voluntary levy payments to the Fund, including contributions from online betting, to enable the Greyhound Industry to continue its excellent work and make further improvements in respect of greyhound welfare. The EFRA report concluded that, “Bookmakers profiting from greyhound racing have a responsibility to support greyhound welfare whether they trade from the High Street or trade online”.

 

Despite the Select Committee’s report and the intervention of the Sports Minister, negotiations between the GBGB and bookmakers proved fruitless. DCMS subsequently appointed Lord Lipsey to mediate between the two parties. In September 2017 last year, Ladbrokes Coral announced the good news that they would pay into the Fund on their online turnover from 1 January 2018 and subsequently Jennings Bet have confirmed that they will also pay. Both joined bet365, who have always paid into the Fund on all greyhound turnover.

As part of the negotiations through DCMS some of the remaining bookmakers have expressed a willingness to pay into the Fund on their online turnover, although each has added, the not unreasonable proviso, that payment is on condition that all bookmakers pay. All queries raised by different bookmakers have been answered and a full breakdown of where the additional money is required to support and fulfil welfare initiatives was provided.  Unfortunately, despite a lengthy mediation process an agreement with all of the Bookmakers has not yet been achieved which means that there is a very real risk that none of the Bookmakers will be prepared to include their online turnover in their contribution to the Fund, and those that currently don’t pay at all may continue to not contribute to the voluntary levy. This leaves the sport in a precarious financial situation.

The GBGB are also concerned that should the recent reduction in stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals lead to a substantial number of licensed betting shops closing, as has been predicted, this is highly likely to result in a further decline in the BGRF income as this is predominantly derived from retail turnover. Any further reduction in BGRF income could seriously undermine the ability of the GBGB to deliver greyhound racing as a betting medium for the bookmaking industry as we are not prepared to compromise on welfare and integrity.

Adequate funding is crucial to the future of Greyhound racing. You are probably aware that we (the GBGB) recently published our Greyhound Commitment, which outlines tangible undertakings in respect of enhanced greyhound welfare for greyhounds whilst racing and also in their retirement. We are committed to working towards the target of reducing euthanasia rates on economic grounds to zero over the next 5 years by introducing an injury recovery scheme, which will greatly assist Owners and Trainers with the cost of treatment and care for greyhounds with career ending injuries. We have also given a commitment to improving Trainers’ kennels to a publicly available standard and obtaining UKAS accreditation for kennel regulatory processes; we have already embarked on developing an apprenticeship scheme within the industry for newcomers and people who are currently involved with the sport, but which will also provide them with a qualification at the end of their training period; and we want to support the Greyhound Trust, our partner charity to build a state of the art greyhound homing centre. Unfortunately, these enhanced welfare initiatives and commitments require significant levels of funding and can only go ahead if there is more money available coming into the Industry from the Bookmakers.  

We would urge all of your members to consider their responsibility to the industry and to provide adequate financial support to underpin the sport of greyhound racing in the UK in order that the GBGB can carry out its commitments to Government, the sport’s stakeholders and most of all the greyhounds.

 

Yours Sincerely

 

Mark Bird

 

Managing Director

For & on behalf of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain