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Hogg highlights the difficulties for independents

25 April 2015

INDUSTRY veteran Ian Hogg has warned that racing must bear in mind the crisis facing independent bookmakers when discussing media rights with the betting industry. Hogg is one of the most versatile figures within racing and betting, having helped develop a number of businesses in the sector including At The Races, Fox Poker Club, Arena Leisure plc, Better – an independent bookmaking firm that subsequently merged with Jenningsbet – GamCrowd, Sportech, and most recently software house The Shopworks, which specialises in helping businesses, including bookmakers , run more efficiently. 

In an article due to appear in Betting Business next month, he writes: “The central issue for the independent sector is that [smaller] community shops are paying the same per shop for SIS and Turf TV as the large high-street chains. “This is not the case for Sky subscribers for whom the charges are linked to the rateable value of the shop. If media rights charges were similarly proportional to the business in each shop then smaller units would be in a much better position to continue trading. “Similar to with Sky content, I believe a system could be negotiated whereby charges for horseracing content could be linked to rateable value, or even gross win revenue like the levy.” He told the Racing Post: “Wearing my Shopworks hat, I want to see independent bookmaking flourish – but a thousand shops are at risk, perhaps even 2,000, and the risk for racing is if they do go, tighter planning regulations are going to make it harder for any new ones to open. 

“Levy and media costs together are a huge burden, and charges need to be set that keep these smaller shops open. Instead of charging everyone say £20,000, take £10,000 from a smaller shop, and more from the more successful. But a closed shop pays nothing.” Hogg welcomed the arrival of Nick Rust at the BHA. “Nick understands the issues, but of course it’s the racecourses who need to reflect on how best to ensure a long-term future for racing in communities generally. “Howard Chisholm in the Racing Post in February warned of the implications. I agree with him. More can and should be done to help them, before we see these shops disappear from our communities forever.” Chisholm, boss of an independent bookmaking chain based in the north-east, said yesterday: “I can’t help but agree with the general premise being put forward by Ian that horseracing needs to retain a presence on the high street via betting shops. “I would qualify that by suggesting that racing needs to encourage the retention of existing community-based shops and a wider spread in the location of new betting shops. This could be facilitated through a change in the structure of media rights charges – but it’s unlikely the betting companies benefiting from the present structure – the major PLCs – would allow such a change.”

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