Scotland’s leading racecourse bosses have met with MPs at Westminster to push for improved funding for the racing industry.
Musselburgh Racecourse general manager Bill Farnsworth was in the delegation which met the cross parliamentary group Friends of Scottish Racing, which included East Lothian MP Fiona O’Donnell.
Mr Farnsworth said the British horseracing industry is facing financial meltdown because of reduced levels of income generated by the Horse Race Betting Levy Board (Levy).
The Levy partly funds prize money at UK race meetings but it is forecast revenue will be slashed to less than £70 million this year compared to £115 million two years ago.
Several of the leading betting chains, including William Hill and Ladbrokes, have moved their online betting operations abroad to avoid paying taxes. The bookmakers claim they are paying higher taxes than betting exchanges and can’t compete on what they say is an unlevel playing field.
Friends of Scottish Racing agreed to write to John Penrose, the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, to outline concerns and are to request a meeting with Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.
Bill Farnsworth said: “The horseracing industry is being badly damaged as a result of a spat between traditional bookmakers and the online betting exchanges. The decision by the bigger chains to move offshore is another blow to an already weakened Levy and has severe consequences for UK racecourses, including Musselburgh.
“We need a strong Levy to ensure the future of British racing and the Government must step in now to close the loophole which allows betting companies to move operations offshore and so avoid paying tax and a reasonable contribution to the Levy.
“We are grateful to the Friends of Scottish Racing for their ongoing support and are seeking an urgent meeting with the Government ministers who can put an end to this deteriorating situation.”
The Levy collects a percentage of gross profits from British horse racing betting operations and the money is used to finance a number of activities with more than half going on prize money which filters down to breeders, trainers, jockeys and stable staff.
Fiona O’Donnell, MP for East Lothian, said: “I understand just how important this issue is to Musselburgh Racecourse and other Scottish race courses and I will continue to push the Ministers responsible for horseracing and betting to take concrete action and to address this matter urgently.
“Musselburgh Racecourse makes an excellent contribution to the East Lothian economy and is a superb sporting attraction. I won’t stand by and let all the good work that has gone in to making it one of our leading courses be undermined while Ministers dilly dally and do nothing to bring the betting industry to book.”
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