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Talks between racing and betting set to continue with both parties locked in stalemate over UK levy reform

Talks are due to continue next week in a bid to break the stalemate between British racing and bookmakers over UK levy reform with time running out before the government must intervene.

The government committed to reviewing the levy, British racing's central funding system, following the publication of its gambling white paper last year in recognition of the financial impact the proposed affordability checks would have on the sport's finances.

Ministers encouraged the BHA and bookmakers, through the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), to try to come up with an agreement without the government having to become involved.

In a recent submission to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, British racing argued the target for the amount it should receive from the levy is £133 million, rather than the most recent yield of £100m, and has cited the rising costs facing the sport.

Racing's leadership has called for the levy to be reformed and extended to all betting on racing by British punters to help bridge the gap. Talks between racing's representatives and the BGC have not progressed, however, and there is only a matter of weeks before the deadline for a decision in late April.

Gambling minister Stuart Andrew this week urged negotiations to continue as "it remains my intention to update parliament in April as planned on the outcome of our own review".

In a column in the latest Owner Breeder magazine, Racehorse Owners Association president Charlie Parker said talks had met a "brick wall" and claimed bookmakers had tried to widen the talks from the levy to consider other sources of income such as media rights.

He said it was "almost certain" that Andrew would have to intervene in the process.

Parker told the Racing Post: "The basic point is that this is about levy reform. This isn't about the whole media rights landscape and the contracts that they willingly signed and what's in them, which none of us know.

"This is about British racing and the increasing costs to British racing which have occurred since the last levy reform. Inflation has pushed costs up, the costs of running racecourses have gone through the roof, the cost of owning racehorses, as we all know, has just gone absolutely through the roof – transport, vets, fees, blacksmiths, everything.

"If the mechanism by which a portion of prize-money is funded and lots of other things as well – veterinary research, welfare, people – is not looked at and reformed given where we have come from, then British racing is facing a significant funding gap. Bookmakers have to pay the levy and we need to reach an agreement, but we are running out of time."

In response a spokesperson for the BGC said: “Talks with BHA are scheduled to continue – including next week. 

"We won’t be providing a running commentary, but while we recognise this is not easy for either side, we are sure the BHA will be prepared to compromise and negotiate in good faith on behalf of the sport."

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