BHA concern over financial risk checks


On Thursday, the UK government released its long-awaited gambling white paper, outlining proposals for reform in the industry. However, concerns have been raised by the British racing governing body, the BHA, about the effectiveness of the proposed financial risk checks.

The measures include background checks for issues such as county court judgements at a £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year. A second tier of checks, which might indicate harmful binge gambling or sustained unaffordable losses, would come in at proposed thresholds of a £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days.

Ministers have claimed that the checks would be “frictionless” and conducted online by credit reference agencies or through other means such as open banking, with documentation asked for as a last resort. The government claimed that around eight in ten players would not undergo the checks, and only around three per cent of the highest-spending accounts would have more detailed checks.

Speaking after the white paper was released, BHA chief executive Julie Harrington expressed concerns about how unobtrusive and friction-free the checks would be. Harrington said the sport would do its own due diligence to see if the three per cent of punters subject to more detailed checks would be mirrored among racing’s customers.

She said: “In terms of the impact, the numbers around £1,000 and £2,000 are probably as we anticipated. The number around the less-intrusive checks of £125 is much lower.”

She added: “The big unknown for us at the moment is how unobtrusive and friction-free those checks are.”

Harrington said the sport would do its own due diligence to see if the three per cent of punters subject to more detailed checks would be mirrored among racing’s customers.

She added: “Our suspicion is that there will be a higher value punter in there so we would be more impacted than the average.”

The subject of affordability checks has been one of the most controversial aspects of the government’s gambling review, with campaigners having called for punters to have to prove they could afford gambling losses of as low as £100 a month. British racing’s leadership has warned that blanket affordability checks would be “highly damaging” to its finances.

Other proposals contained in the white paper include a statutory levy on gambling operators to help fund treatment services and research of problem gambling. The Gambling Commission will receive extra powers to tackle black market operators, and a new industry ombudsman will be created to deal with disputes and rule on redress where a customer suffers losses due to an operator failing in their player protection duties.

New stake limits for online slots games of between £2 and £15 per spin will be brought in to mirror those found in bricks-and-mortar premises. The stakes had previously been unlimited.

However, campaigners who had hoped for bans on gambling advertising and sponsorship in sport will have been left disappointed. The government launched its gambling review in December 2020 with a call for evidence, which resulted in 16,000 responses.

The BHA has warned that blanket affordability checks would be “highly damaging” to its finances, while Arena Racing Company estimated last year that the sport was losing £40 million per annum from checks already put in place by bookmakers involving requests for personal financial information such as bank statements.

The government also revealed that a review of the levy, British racing’s central funding system, had commenced. It had originally been set to happen by 2024.

It had been expected that the government would set the rate at one per cent of the industry’s gross profits, which could raise as much as £140 million. However, the rate will be subject to further consultation.

Announcing the government’s proposals, culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “We live in an age where people have a virtual mobile casino in their pockets. It has made gambling easier, quicker and often more fun, but when things go wrong it can see people lose thousands of pounds in a few swipes of the screen.

“So we are stepping in to update the law for those most at risk of harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and education, player protection checks and new online slots stake limits.

“This will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to play safely.”

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said he welcomed the publication of the white paper.

Dugher said: “We need time to consider the full detail and impacts of these proposals, but it is important to recognise the BGC has worked closely with government to deliver a wide-ranging package of balanced, proportionate and effective reforms.”

He added: “Our members generate £7.1 billion for the economy and raise £4.2 billion in tax every year, and the measures announced today should protect jobs and sustain that vital contribution, while also building on our own work to drive world-leading standards in safer gambling.”

Gambling review white paper: the main proposals



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The British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) plan to declutter Saturday afternoons to promote its premier fixtures is coming under fire for prioritizing betting at the expense of racegoers, according to Bill Farnsworth, the manager of Musselburgh racecourse. The Queen’s Cup meeting, scheduled for Saturday, is at risk of being cancelled next year under the plan to move races away from Saturday afternoons and potentially reposition them at lunchtimes or on weekend evenings.

BHA chief executive Julie Harrington has said that the strategy is intended to “ensure that our best fixtures are positioned in a manner which creates a more readily identifiable top end to the sport, presented in a shop window that engages customers.” However, Farnsworth argues that the strategy is driven by what suits betting, and that racegoers will be adversely affected by the proposed fixture shifts.

Access to data from betting companies is being viewed as a game-changer by the BHA for planning next year’s fixture list to align it with consumer behaviour. However, Farnsworth believes that the BHA is underestimating the cost of losing Saturday fixtures and racegoers, and overestimating the upside in betting.

Farnsworth explained that Musselburgh may not be able to hold on to a Saturday afternoon position for the Queen’s Cup meeting under the new plan. If the race were moved to lunchtime or later in the afternoon, Musselburgh would lose ITV coverage, which is essential to putting on the quality of racing that the course is known for. Farnsworth warned that the race may become unviable and could disappear entirely.

Farnsworth believes that the BHA’s plans are all about driving betting turnover, and that the betting companies will benefit at the expense of racegoers. He argues that the cost of the plan will be that racegoers have fewer opportunities to go racing, which is important for the sport.

Farnsworth noted that he supports change that improves British racing, but believes that the BHA is underestimating the cost of losing Saturday fixtures and racegoers, and overestimating the upside in betting. Farnsworth expressed concern that his concerns are not being taken seriously, and that there seems to be a real desire to change things without considering the impact on racegoers.



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British racing’s industry strategy is entering a critical stage, as proposals are being developed to revamp the 2024 fixture list to showcase the sport’s premier events. The strategy was agreed upon by British racing’s leadership last autumn and covers issues such as internationally uncompetitive prize-money, concerns about the drain of equine talent abroad, and downward pressure on field sizes and attendances. The industry programme board has been formed to oversee delivery, but decisions on the most urgent aspect of the strategy, the 2024 fixture list, are aimed for before the end of May.

BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said that efforts to progress the industry strategy were entering “an important and exciting phase.” Harrington stated that decisions were being made about the structure, presentation, and promotion of British racing’s product, including the fixture list, funding, and the race programme. She added that there was “scope for so much innovation and improvement in these areas.” The focus is on how to use the shop window of premier events to grow the appeal of the sport to existing and new fans, presenting a more readily identifiable top end to the sport that engages customers in a way that delivers long-term benefits across the entire industry. The industry is also looking at how to use its core fixtures to increase the engagement of racing’s existing customers.

According to Harrington, access to data from betting operators has proven to be a game changer, giving insight into how bettors behave. This data allows the industry to factor fan and bettor behaviour into their approach to programming fixtures and races, resulting in a more competitive sport that is more appealing to fans, owners, trainers, the betting public, and investors, ultimately generating greater revenues that can filter down to participants through prize-money.

Harrington said progress on the strategy had only been made possible by changes to the governance structure of British racing. These changes gave the BHA power to make “difficult but strong decisions.” A new commercial committee, made up of representatives of the racecourses and Thoroughbred Group, was formed last year to advise the BHA, but when that body cannot agree, the BHA board will be the final arbiter. There have been fears that this could be where the new structure might fail. Harrington admitted that some decisions would benefit some groups more than others and some decisions might impact on some parties in the short term, but the objective is that everyone will benefit from an increasingly popular sport with a growing number of customers and investors. The BHA board will have to make difficult decisions to progress the sport, but Harrington said the commercial committee was operating well and she was confident the structure would allow progress to be made.



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Twenty jockeys were banned for violating new whip regulations.

One of the 20 offences dealt with by the BHA’s new whip referral committee following the first operational week of the new rules, Charlotte Jones became the first jockey to have her mount disqualified for excessive whip use.

On February 14, Lunar Discovery placed second in the mares’ bumper at Ayr. However, Jones was found to have used the whip 11 times, which was four times more than the allowed amount and resulted in an automatic disqualification and a 14-day ban.

The Racing Post reported on Monday that Lorcan Williams, Luke Scott, and Cameron Iles—both of whom won on Makinyourmindup at Haydock on Saturday—will miss the Cheltenham Festival after receiving an 18-day suspension. Kevin Brogan will be absent from the festival on its first day.

Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s chief regulatory officer, said: “Jockeys have had more than four weeks to adapt to the new rules through the bedding-in period. As the jockeys themselves have stated, it is now up to them to ensure that they ride within the new rules.

“Disqualification has been introduced as the ultimate deterrent for overuse of the whip. There is simply no excuse for using the whip four or more times above the permitted level. It was always likely that the disqualification rule would need to be invoked in the early stages of the implementation of the new rules. We hope that this sends a clear message to all jockeys and reinforces this deterrent effect.”

The most well-known race with whip violations was the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle. Williams was banned for 18 days for riding Makinyourmindup, the winner, and Brogan was banned for eight days for riding Collectors Item, the runner-up, who lost by a short head.

Luke Scott also suffered as a result of the new rule, which doubles bans in Class 1 and 2 races. His ride on Progressive in a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Wetherby on February 15 resulted in a 14-day suspension.

On the case of Williams, Dunshea added: “The whip has been used not only above the permitted level, but also from above shoulder height on multiple occasions. This is a breach of the rules in most racing jurisdictions.

“Lorcan was advised on numerous occasions throughout the bedding in period of rides that would amount to a breach of the new Rules should he continued to ride in the same manner. The review committee have included a mandatory session with the British Racing School as part of his penalty. This is part of the purpose of the committee, to bring about improvements in riding standards.”



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Gordon Elliott receives fine, and Zanahiyr disqualified from the last year’s Champion Hurdle.

After testing positive for a prohibited substance on raceday, Zanahiyr was disqualified from third place in the Unibet Champion Hurdle the previous year and Gordon Elliott was given a fine of £1,000.

Although neither Elliott nor the BHA were able to pinpoint the source of the substance, it was discovered that Zanahiyr had traces of a metabolite of lidocaine, a local anesthetic, in his system. BHA legal counsel Charlotte Davison described the situation as “a mystery case.”

In April of last year, officials from the IHRB under the direction of the BHA carried out an unannounced inspection of Elliott’s yard. However, the yard did not contain any evidence of lidocaine. In addition, neither Elliott’s regular veterinarian nor a specialist who had treated Zanahiyr’s back prior to Cheltenham asserted that the medication had been administered to the horse.

The BHA received a list of employees who traveled with Elliott’s horses to the Cheltenham Festival last year and the medications they were taking. Lidocaine can be found in both prescription and over-the-counter medications for horses.

Older forms of Bonjela were one such item, and it was discovered that the person who applied Zanahiyr’s tongue tie was using them. However, additional investigations revealed that the Bonjela that the individual was using did not contain the substance.

Elliott’s attorney, Rory Mac Neice, stated that the Cheltenham racecourse stables were “overwhelmingly the most likely place” where Zanahiyr came into contact with lidocaine and that the trainer had taken reasonable precautions to prevent cross contamination.

The BHA had sought to highlight Elliott’s staff’s “significant failings” in working practices, such as “an absence of training or guidance to members of staff about how to reduce the risk of cross contamination” and “no procedures being in place to allow members of staff taking medication to notify the yard of that fact”.

Elliott had been asked by a BHA investigator if appropriate processes were in place with staff to reduce the possibility of cross contamination, and said: “Absolutely, we would always talk to everyone on a regular basis about urinating in stables and that sort of stuff… I suppose it’s something we need to keep an eye out for. We’ll have to be tightening up on it.”

Mac Neice, on the other hand, argued that the BHA does not require such procedures and that individuals signing into the racecourse stables, which are controlled by the BHA, are not required to list their medications.

Noel and Valerie Moran’s Zanahiyr finished behind Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle last year, but Saint Roi, trained by Willie Mullins for JP McManus, took first place and received £47,745 in prize money instead.

Speaking after the hearing, Elliott said: “I’m grateful to the panel for making a finding of low culpability. That was important to me. It shows that I had taken reasonable precautions. That said, the buck stops with me and I fully support the rules on anti-doping.”


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Goodwood boss accepts the loss of the Group 3s, saying, “We need to take our share of the pain.”

The BHA issued a warning on Friday that removing nine races from Britain’s Flat Pattern and Listed program is only the beginning of an effort to improve the sport.

The Legacy Cup, which is held at Newbury, has lost its Group 3 status, as has the Supreme and March Stakes at Goodwood.

Along with three races from Windsor, the Denford Stakes, the Buckhounds Stakes (Ascot), and the Fairway Stakes (Newmarket) at that venue will no longer be listed races.

The modifications, which were suggested to the regulatory body by a committee that included top trainer William Haggas, were accepted by Goodwood managing director Adam Waterworth.

“We had to do something and we’ve done what I said we’d do; take our share of the pain, which is to lose two Group 3s,” Waterworth said.

“I don’t think there’s any debate about the March Stakes. It hasn’t worked. We’d love to see more runners and I’d love to have put more prize-money in but I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s not working as a race.”

“The Supreme Stakes, I’m genuinely disappointed about because we love that, but the committee and BHA team put the argument to us as to why, if we take that race out, it will help the seven-furlong pattern.”

“Although it weakens a meeting that is really important to us, I think, for the greater good of the sport we’ve done what we said we’d do. Everybody should be prepared to take their share of the pain because we’ve got to do something.”

The BHA director of international racing and racing development, Ruth Quinn, stated: “The quality and competitiveness of our Flat Pattern and Listed programme is fundamental, not just to the long-term reputation and sustainability of British racing, but also to the strength of the breed.”

“Work is under way, as part of the industry’s long-term strategy, to deliver substantive improvements to the way our racing is structured, presented and promoted.”

“This includes continually enhancing the performance of our black-type programme under both codes, and ensuring the best horses continue to be bred, owned, trained, and raced in Britain.”

“The changes to the programme for 2023 are the first of a series of measures, which aim to help address some of the immediate challenges in our black-type contests, particularly around field sizes and race competitiveness, ahead of further, more fundamental, improvements – with racecourses involved in the process from the outset – for 2024 and beyond.”

Quinn went on to say that the changes to the jumps schedule for the 2023–24 season would be announced before the Cheltenham Festival in March.


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Harry Bannister, who has been out since October after dislocating a hip in a bad fall, is planning to be back riding within weeks. In the coming days, he will sit on a horse for the first time since the injury and he believes that he will be back racing come the end of January.

Harry had his best season of winners and prize-money last season and he had been itching to build on it this winter.  However, his fall from Godrevy Point in a handicap chase at Stratford was a blow to those ambitions, meaning the frustration of months away from the track.

Fortunately, after multiple surgeries were a success, he can now look forward to returning sooner rather than later.

Bannister said, “We’re pretty much there. I’ve got a scan in two weeks and if that goes well, I won’t be far off.

“I’m hopefully going to ride out in the next week or so. The doctors and those involved have said the recovery has gone smoothly. By the sounds of it they did a very good job with the initial two surgeries, so that’s helped.”

“I’m close to Lambourn and there’s a hydrotherapy pool and gym at Oaksey, and Rob [Treviss] and Anna [Fisher] have been brilliant,” he added. “Jerry Hill has been influential in where we go with it all and how much we do, but I think it’s all gone pretty well.”

“There are things you can’t be certain about and things could go either way, but, from what everyone says, we’ve gone the right side of it, so hopefully I can put it behind me and go again.”

“No time to be injured is good, but November and December are two of the busiest months, so it was quite tough to miss, although being at Oaksey has helped the sanity. I’ve been able to keep busy and keep my mind on something, but it was unfortunate I wasn’t able to build on last season.”

We are wishing Harry Bannister well, and hopefully he can soon add to his handful of graded victories in the near future.



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A common-sense conclusion to the self-revived whip debate  

The BHA hasn’t ever felt that the sweeping changes of the 2011 whip rules twere strong enough and they clearly want to further tighten the rules in an effort to keep ahead of the issue.  Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of public anti-whip clamour.

Nevertheless, when the Whip Consultation Steering Group was launched last year, it was clear that big changes would be afoot. The main points were:

• Use of the whip for encouragement will be restricted to the backhand position only.

• The permitted number of strikes will remain at seven on the Flat and eight over jumps.

• Increased penalties for rule breaches, including a doubling of penalties in “major races.”

• Disqualification for usage of four strikes or more above the permitted limits in all races.

• Development of a review panel to assess all rides and implement the rules.

There have been a number of issues raised with the proposed changes. Moreover, the decision to bring in the rule changes on 6th of February, just a few weeks before the Cheltenham Festival, risks a very high-profile mess.

Although initially reticent to speak out, they have increasingly found their voices in recent weeks. The BHA then announced that they will consider making changes before the soft launch on the 9th of January, in advance of their full implementation.

The BHA continue to be committed to making changes that deliver “more considered and judicious use of the whip for encouragement, and improved perception of whip use.” However, by softening to making amendments to the proposed changes, they have allowed for a potential smoother transition to the new rules.

The forehand use of the whip seems one likely to cause controversy. Jockeys with physiques unsuited to the technique come up short with their strikes and may hit their mounts on their flanks. This could have an impact on results with jockeys struggling with the technique adjustment and aren’t able to pull their whip through as quickly as they in the backhand position.

Additionally, the proposed whip-related disqualifications seem strange. They proposed doing so in the days after the race via a newly-created whip review committee. A centralised panel makes plenty of sense, but doing so in the days after the race is bizarre. It would be very unsatisfactory if a tainted result was allowed to stand and settled in the betting markets despite it being clear that a disqualification would be  given a few days later.

While it is something positive that they are trying to achieve, the BHA should be open to consultations with the stakeholders and should delay the proposal’s launch. It is more important that it is done well, then done soon. We will wait and see what the BHA does next.


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