BHA chief executive Nick Rust has signalled his intent to repair ruptured relations with bookmakers by creating a forum for crucial fixture discussions including maximising racing’s exposure on blank weekends for Premier League football.
Rust wants a fresh start to the sport’s relationship with the betting industry, one envisaged to include tailoring fixture lists to maximise betting on racing, for instance taking into account football schedules.
The 2018 fixture list has been constructed to reflect changes in the way people bet on the sport, with more evening meetings scheduled to attract online betting, amid moves to improve and formalise ties with the betting industry.
Racing has not been the only side to call for ties to be improved, with Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint last year using his speech at the Gimcrack dinner to call for a new partnership between the sport and bookmakers.
Rust admitted the authorised betting partner policy (ABP) and the process leading to levy reform had inevitably put a “certain strain” on the relationship between the two sectors but he revealed there had been “a number of high-level meetings” between the two sides during Royal Ascot.
Rust continued: “I was always very optimistic that once the levy matters had been resolved that concerns over relationships would quickly be put aside.
“I think in the last few months we’ve seen that with leaders in racing and betting spending time together, beginning to talk about how the future will look, and beginning to discuss plans.”
Rust added: “It’s definitely starting afresh and making sure that with the levy behind us we can start moving forward together.”
As part of the levy reforms a new Racing Authority is set to be created with responsibility for spending levy funds, although the process has been delayed by this year’s general election.
Rust said: “British racing has formed its proposals with regard to how its formalised relationship with betting will take place in and around the new Racing Authority.
“Even if that’s delayed somewhat we’d expect the forum for the formal relationship with betting established by this autumn.
“We’re just finalising the shape of that at the moment but broadly speaking we see senior representatives of racing and appropriate representatives of betting operators working together in a single forum where all matters, not just how they would like to see levy distributed, can be discussed.”
Before the announcement of the ABP scheme in late 2015 a racing and betting group had been formed as part of the sport’s strategy for growth, and Rust hoped the new relationship would pick up where that left off.
“We had senior leaders from betting in the room and a number of ideas were discussed about how we’d shape the fixture list for the future, and I’d like us to revisit those within this new forum,” said Rust.
“Areas of opportunity were identified such as international football weekends which are pretty fallow ground for betting operators these days. It would be good to make sure we put on the appropriate and best racing product we can for off-course betting on those weekends.
“Thursday evenings are also an opportunity given it’s weak for football, and there’s an opportunity there for us to consider how we put on racing to ensure we’re front of mind for the betting public.”
Funding plans are now fixed for three years but Rust said changes could be made for the two years after 2018.
“It will allow us to make certain changes and tweak things,” he said.
“We’re getting more visibility of other sporting events and their scheduling which will help us to make the case for making changes to some of the historical parts of our list, to adapt it so we can take full advantage for one of the sport’s biggest funders, the betting industry.”
Rust also said that creating an environment for innovation in betting was important.
“There are a number of things we can do in making more information available in terms of introducing sectional timing and tracking, which can provide the environment for additional bets,” he added.