The Racing Hub Round-up: the week’s top stories
The Racing Hub Round-up – your weekly round-up of racing’s top stories
Racing and Racecourses
Running the Derby at Epsom behind closed doors has been given the all-clear at a special meeting of the Epsom and Walton Downs Conservators.
The vote was universal with all nine members taking part in the meeting giving their approval to the Jockey Club’s plans to prevent public access to the Downs when the race takes place on a Saturday in July or August.
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Senior executives from British horseracing have welcomed the publication of a timeline for the potential resumption of sporting events by the UK government.
Racing’s Executive Committee, which includes the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association, The Racehorse Owners’ Association and the National Trainers Federation, committed to plan for resumption on 1 June.
They agreed that a timeline setting out what racing would need to do to meet that date will be published within the next seven days.
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Jockey Club Racecourses have appealed against a local authority decision to reject plans for a major redevelopment of Sandown Park.
Last October Elmbridge Borough Council unanimously rejected Sandown’s proposal after receiving expressions of concern from local residents as well as their own reservations about the impact on the green belt and increased traffic.
The plans include a new six-storey 150-bedroom hotel, upgrades to staff accommodation, the stables, pre-parade ring and the paddock. Funding for the scheme would come from building of 318 residential units on the outskirts of the racecourse.
A spokesperson for Jockey Club Racecourses said: “We have lodged an appeal. We’re confident that the reasons why we did not receive consent from the council can be addressed, and that the proposals will bring really substantial economic, social and environmental benefits for Esher, Elmbridge and the wider area.”
The appeal, which will be in the form of an inquiry, will be strenuously opposed by the Esher Residents Association, which has called upon those living in the area to write to local MP, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, to express their views.
A residents association spokeswoman wrote on the group’s website: “I apologise for being the bearer of bad news during these difficult times, but the Jockey Club has submitted an appeal for their scheme at Sandown Park. The decision as to whether to allow the development will now be made by a planning inspector at an inquiry.
“Having successfully campaigned to get this application refused by Elmbridge Council in October, we remain committed to the fight.”
Musselburgh racecourse has been granted another temporary licence by the BHA, until the end of October, in the hope that a deal for Chester racecourse to take over the running of the track can be finalised in the interim.
The Scottish course had been granted a series of temporary licences following nearly three years of managerial disputes and problems. It had been expected that the deal for Chester to run the course would have been completed by 31 March, the expiry date of a temporary licence granted in December 2019.
Deadlines of 1 March and then 25 March were missed, with East Lothian Council, which owns the course, unable to complete the deal before another temporary licence expired on 1 May.
A joint statement from the BHA and East Lothian Council regarding the latest extension said: “The extension has been approved in order to give sufficient time for the complications that have arisen in the deal to appoint a third-party operator due to the coronavirus pandemic to be worked through.”
Helen Bryce, head of legal at the BHA, said: “We understand that the future outlook is uncertain and we will continue to work closely and collaboratively with the parties involved to try and reach a positive outcome.”
Chair of the Musselburgh Racing Committee, Councillor Fiona O’Donnell, said: “I am very pleased the BHA has recognised the impact of Covid-19 on the transfer to a third-party operator.”
The British European Breeders’ Fund, known as the EBF and which supports over 600 Flat races a year, has renewed its prize-money commitment.
The trustees intend to honour the £1.68m of prize money enhancements originally allocated to Flat races in 2020, with a focus on the initial stages of resumption using the funds accrued during racing’s suspension.
This will provide a much-needed boost to the sport, with the reassurance that both in the initial stages and the longer-term programme, extra money will be available, in the form of EBF prize money contributions.
Simon Sweeting (pictured), Chairman of the British EBF said: “We are committed to supporting as many races within our remit as practical to help the sport back on its feet as quickly as possible. We are aware of how significant our £1.68m is to the industry this season and we are working to make sure it gets in to the system effectively.
“We will use money not spent during the cessation of racing to support additional races during the first month or so of the resumption. We know our additional funding is needed by owners and trainers and we want to assure them that the British EBF is here to help at every opportunity.”
The British EBF is making plans to provide support for an extended Flat programme in November and December, ensuring appropriate support is offered throughout the season.
The Racehorse Owners Association has elected Charlie Parker to be its new president.
Parker (pictured) said of his three-year appointment, which starts of 30 June: “I am honoured to have been elected as president of the ROA by my colleagues on the board.
“The ROA is a vital component within the British horseracing industry and I am determined to continue the outstanding work of Nicholas Cooper in not only keeping owners at the forefront of discussions and decision making, but also to help the wider industry bodies face up to the enormous challenges that we will face over the coming months.”
Parker, who has already served two three-year terms on the ROA board following his election in 2015, is a member of British racing’s Resumption of Racing Group. He succeeds Nicholas Cooper who has held the post for four years.
Brendan Powell, who rode Rhyme ‘n’ Reason to victory in the 1988 Grand National and ended his training career just over year ago, has been fined £2,500 (deferred for six months) and cannot apply for a trainer’s licence in Britain for 12 months.
Powell, who is now assistant trainer to Joseph O’Brien in Ireland, was found in breach of rule (A) 30, conduct prejudicial to the good integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of racing, in that he failed to notify an owner that their horse was injured and required surgery. He also misled the owner, who has not been named, about the horse’s condition and made entries despite knowing the horse was unfit to race.
It is understood there was no evidence of the horse’s welfare having been compromised.
After the hearing Powell said: “There’s not a lot to say, it’s there in black and white. I admitted to it so that was it really. It’s been ongoing for three years and I am just glad it’s over now.” The charges relate to the period between 25 October and 23 December 2017.
Betting and Bookmakers
Online operators have been issues with new guidance by the Gambling Commission. It ensures that consumers are further protected following the publication of new evidence that shows some gamblers maybe at greater risk of harm during lockdown.
Included in the guidance is the need for affordability checks, prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers.
The new guidance follows the Commission publishing data showing the impact that Covid-19 is having on consumers and the industry so far. Collected through the gambling industry and also through YouGov surveys this data shows that during lockdown gambling participation is down overall. This reflects the closure of land-based venues and the cancellation of sporting events, with only a small number of people starting to gamble for the first time.
However, while there is no evidence to suggest an increase in problem gambling, the shift in the market as a result of Covid-19 evidence shows an increase in the use of certain gambling products such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.
The majority of those gambling indicate that they have not increased the time or money they have spent, two thirds (64%) of more engaged gamblers reported that they have increased the time or money that they are spending on at least one online gambling activity including National Lottery products.
The data also shows that in terms of time spent gambling, while overall session length has decreased, there has been an increase in the number of sessions that are played for over an hour
The Commission has reviewed its current guidance in light of the risks that some players may be experiencing harm while in lockdown, and online operators must now take account of the Commission’s additional guidance, which makes clear they should:
- Prevent reverse withdrawal options for customers until further notice
- Cease to offer bonuses or promotions to all customers who are displaying indicators of harm
- Interact with customers who have been playing for an hour in a single session of play
- Review thresholds and triggers for new customers to reflect the operator’s lack of knowledge of that individual’s play and spend patterns
- Conduct affordability assessments for individuals picked up by existing or new thresholds and triggers which indicate consumers experiencing harm – limiting or blocking further play until those checks have been concluded and supporting evidence obtained
- Implement processes that ensure the continual monitoring of their customer base – identifying patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed in recent weeks
Online operators will be expected to make changes to act on this guidance as soon as possible. The Commission will bring forward plans to consult on whether further targeted player protection measures are required on a permanent basis.
Gambling businesses are being warned that they will face regulatory action if they do not carefully manage all the third-party websites that they are responsible for.
London-based FSB Technology will have to change the way it operates with additional licence conditions and pay a £600,000 fine for advertising, money laundering and social responsibility failings, following a Gambling Commission investigation.
FSB’s business model includes contracting provisions of its licensed activities to third parties. This arrangement, often referred to as a ‘white label’, places responsibility on the licensee to ensure that its third-party partners keep gambling fair, safe and crime-free.
However, the Gambling Commission discovered FSB did not have sufficient oversight of three third-party websites, or effective anti-money money laundering and social responsibility policies and procedures in place between January 2017 and August 2019. For example:
- Ineffective customer interactions with, and source of funds checks on, a customer who displayed indicators of problem gambling and spent £282,000 over an 18-month period
- Sending a marketing email to 2,324 customers who had previously self-excluded
- A VIP team manager acting without adequate oversight and not receiving sufficient AML training
- Placement of an inappropriate banner advertisement containing cartoon nudity on a Great Britain facing website which was providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content
Richard Watson, Commission Executive Director, said: “All operators should pay close attention to this case as it shows that we hold all licensees fully responsible for third party relationships – and we will act against any of our licensees that do not manage third parties appropriately.
“These were blatant breaches of rules we have put in place to ensure gambling is fair, safe and crime-free.”
In addition to paying £600,000 towards delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, FSB will also have additional conditions on its licence to ensure it conducts risk-based due diligence on new and current third-party partners it runs websites on behalf of.
The Commission is still reviewing the actions of personal management licence holders involved in this case.
FSB list the following as clients on their website: Fitzdares, Jennings Bet, Mark Jarvis, Quinnbet, thepools, Black Type, Dafabet, PowerPlay, MkekaBet, Toalsbet, Genting Bet, Sokabet Betyetu, bet lion, Bruce Betting and bet600
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