British Horseracing Voices Major Concerns Over Affordability


12 October 2023

British horseracing faces a £250 million hit over the next five years if the Government implements ‘alarming’ new affordability checks, warn industry leaders


  • Eight leading organisations from the horseracing industry have written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, on the new gambling reforms in the government’s White Paper. The group includes the UK’s two largest racecourse groups, – Arena Racing Company and The Jockey Club – The Racecourse Association, The Racehorse Owners Association and representative bodies of trainers, breeders, jockeys and stable staff

  • The group warn that the industry will lose over £250 million, as reported by Regulus Partners, over the next five years if the Government implement further proposed affordability checks on betting customers

  • Current affordability measures are estimated to have cost horseracing over £1 billion since 2021, with gambling the primary source of funding for the industry

A group of UK horseracing industry leaders have today issued a stark warning over the Government’s planned reforms to online betting, which they say will cost the industry over £250 million in the next five years. 

In a letter sent to Lucy Frazer, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Martin Cruddace, chief executive of Arena Racing Company, whose racecourses run 44% of the UK fixture list, warns that proposed reforms in the Government’s gambling White Paper will be a “disaster” for British horseracing and cause the UK to become “the sick man’’ of Europe’s horseracing industry.

Cruddace, whose company operates 16 racecourses in the UK including Doncaster, Newcastle, Royal Windsor and Chepstow, said that “over £1 billion of online betting turnover on British racing will have been lost since 2021,” due to current affordability checks. This has resulted in over 1,000 racehorses lost from the sport, bringing the total number to under 15,000. 

The letter comes just days before the end of the White Paper’s public consultation which closes on 18 October. The White Paper – ‘High Stakes: Gambling Reform for the Digital Age’ – outlines a raft of new affordability measures on gambling that, if implemented, will have a detrimental impact on British horseracing. 

Horseracing is Britain’s second most popular sport, generating over £4 billion each year and employing over 80,000 people. The once thriving industry relies heavily on the levy it earns from the betting industry, which feeds into the entire ecosystem of the sport – from race prizes through to training. 

According to Regulus Partners, a sports advisory firm, the new reforms, on top of existing affordability checks, will cost the industry an estimated £250 million. Cruddace writes, “We [the horseracing industry] have a business model that is predominantly a symbiotic relationship with the betting industry. Over the next five years affordability checks will directly cost the racing industry £250 million. The resulting damage to the industry, which currently employs some 80,000 people, is extremely alarming.”

He also disputes the regulator’s claim that only 3% of betting accounts would be impacted, writing, “the true percentage of current active accounts affected, which includes a higher percentage of horseracing accounts due to those accounts having a greater lifetime span, is considerably higher.” Cruddace also warns that the measures will have no tangible impact on preventing harm saying, “notwithstanding that we have had affordability measures in place for two years now, these measures have had no impact on any of the nine current indices to measure gambling-related harm, but have had a huge knock-on effect on our industry.”

The letter warns of the considerable impact on those rural courses which rely more heavily on gambling revenues rather than footfall. “The unchecked application of affordability checks reduces the available funds to put into prize money and employment, much of it in rural areas,” argues Cruddace. 

The letter is yet another warning of the potential damage to the horseracing industry as leaders from across the sport unite to fight for the future of the sport. Cruddace’s letter is supported and signed by The Racecourse Association, The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, The Jockey Club, The National Association of Racing Staff, The Racehorse Owners Association, The National Trainers Federation and The Professional Jockeys Association. 

Martin Cruddace, Chief Executive of Arena Racing Company, said: “We are calling for the Government to pause the proposed affordability measures. The debate is crying out for objective research, which the new statutory levy can help fund. From all the research by pressure groups and trade organisations I have seen, objectivity is a clear stranger. 

“There is overwhelming consensus across the industry, as demonstrated in this letter, to the Government – that further measures will decimate a sport that millions are passionate about, and ultimately cost the industry over £250 million. That will threaten the future of multiple racecourses across the UK and many thousands of jobs. 

“We support the motivations of the Government to evolve how we protect customers in the digital age. However, our industry risks becoming collateral damage with measures that have no impact in reducing gambling-related harm, promoted by those with an ideological agenda, not an evidenced-based one. This has and will deeply cut the primary revenue stream for our industry. There are other measures the Government could take that will have a more targeted impact; the current proposals will simply not deliver the Government’s ambition.” 

Nicky Henderson, a leading British racehorse trainer, commented: “I employ 65 people in a small village community. Racing is vital to rural communities and clumsy, poorly administered affordability checks are doing catastrophic damage to the rural heart of the UK.”

John Gosden, a British racehorse trainer, commented: “The Commission has a lack of understanding of the relationship between horseracing and gambling. The area they need to target is the gaming and online casino market, which is on everyone's phone and in everyone's pocket. It is the law of unintended consequences. They drive people to the unregulated black market where there is no protection. The gaming casinos target the young with bright colours (AB testing), follow the algorithms and seduce them. It is this that the Gambling Commission should focus on.”

"This is where the worst addictions develop. In contrast to that, gambling on horseracing requires deep research, a high degree of knowledge and understanding of a host of factors including form, going, draw, distance, pedigrees, jockey and trainer. It is not a casual 'shoot from the hip' bet.

"As I warned, the inevitable consequences of the way the commission is looking are to send gamblers to the unregulated black market. What began as a small trickle has already become a torrent."

Arena Racing Company

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