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Why Betfair is racing ahead with British horseracing

PUBLISHED: 14:53 14 June 2013 | UPDATED: 14:53 14 June 2013

Investing in British horseracing

Investing in British horseracing

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In 2012, Betfair signed a landmark five-year commercial deal with British horseracing. Gerald Corbett, Betfair’s Chairman, explains more about the deal and why Betfair is so committed to investing in British racing

There is no doubt Betfair is the betting operator most committed to supporting and investing in British Racing. From Betfair being the only betting operator to agree a commercial deal with the sport, through to the company’s support of organisations and charities at the grassroots level, as well as our pioneering sponsorship ideas it is clear Betfair is leading the way.

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you why Betfair is committed to doing all of this, as well as letting you know some of what we have planned for the year ahead.

First, here’s a couple of simple but important statistics. Betfair has more than four million customers around the world, of which more than one million have placed a bet on British racing. In the last financial year bets on all horseracing around the world made up 42.5 per cent of sports revenue, compared with 41.3 per cent for football, with the vast majority of these bets being placed on racing in Britain and Ireland.

It’s therefore fairly straightforward to realise that Betfair customers really like betting on British racing. This leads to the obvious conclusion that the future success of Betfair and British racing are woven closely together: Betfair needs a strong racing product that continues to appeal to our customers, while racing needs to see a return from betting revenue in order to help ensure the quality and attraction of the sport is maintained.

The Horserace Betting Levy (normally referred to as ‘the Levy’), as the mechanism by which funds are transferred from the betting industry to racing, has long been a point of conflict. Some people in the betting industry have been vocal about the resentment they feel about handing over money to a sport they have little say in the running of, while some in racing have fixated on Levy income meaning they have failed to grasp new commercial opportunities potentially open to the sport. Betfair became increasingly disillusioned with the Punch and Judy rhetoric swapped between betting and racing and frustrated that both sides would not freely admit their dependency on each other.

It is with this in mind that Betfair and British Racing signed a landmark five-year commercial deal last July which is worth at least £40 million to the sport. This deal provides the template other land-based and online betting operators should use in their dealings with British racing in the years ahead. Betfair now has a platform on which to work with British racing on issues, such as assisting in the compilation of the fixture list, to help maximise its betting appeal, while racing receives a financial return which it has a direct incentive to maximise. This does not mean that the betting tail should wag the fixture dog, but rather that betting is one of a number of important reference points.

As well as this, Betfair recognises the need to support the grassroots of the sport. While this week’s wonderful festivities at Royal Ascot are the pinnacle of racing, it is the Mondays at Plumpton, Tuesdays at Leicester and evenings at Wolverhampton that are the basis on which the rest of the sport is built. These meetings return substantial sums to the sport via the betting industry and to ignore them and those people in racing that make them happen would fundamentally weaken the sport.

Betfair recognises this, which is why we have invested more than £3 million into the grassroots of racing since 2010. This includes race series with The Jockey Club and Yorkshire Racing and boosting prize money at Scottish and independent tracks throughout Britain. Betfair also supports a wide range of racing charities with none being more important than the Injured Jockey Fund’s Oaksey House and Racing Welfare, who both do so much to help the jockeys and stable staff.

In recent months Betfair has extended its support for racing open days and is now the headline sponsor for the Lambourn, Newmarket and Middleham open days and will be sponsoring the fifth Pride of Racing Awards, which are taking place at Haydock on Saturday September 28.

Betfair wishes to work hand in glove with British racing and hopes its competitors have the foresight to follow suit.

I hope you all have a most enjoyable week at Royal Ascot.

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The above is featured in the 2013 edition of Royal Ascot Magazine.

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