The number of betting shops in the UK has fallen by 302 shops in two years, according to Gambling Commission statistics. Betfred, one of the largest bookmakers with 1,366 shops, has reported an operating loss of £76.7m. It is against this background that a third racing channel has been launched for betting shops.

The new, third channel, The Racing Partnership (TRP), is a joint venture between Arena Racing (ARC) and seven independent racecourses: Fakenham, Ffos Las, Hexham, Newton Abbot, Plumpton, Ripon and Towcester.
TRP claims its racecourse will provide 40% of the content for British horseracing.

Football has a similar scenario with three television networks bidding for matches: Sky, BT and ITV. The price has escalated and one fears whether this will be the case for horse racing too. I understand that TRP’s prices will cause an increase for bookmakers of 20% above what they are paying now.

The large bookmakers have their own dedicated channels so integration through their studios will not present a problem. That may not be the case for the small independents.

SIS, for its part, is committed to supply services to independent bookmakers and quoted in SBC News the company said “SIS continues to build on its current portfolio to ensure our service for independent bookmakers is better than ever. The acquisition of RMG rights and the extended agreement for Irish horseracing, our continued BAGS greyhound content along with a new range of valuable horse racing content will continue to see the FACTS service as the premium channel for independent bookmakers”.

However Paul Witten, commercial director at SIS, commented: “ARC has clearly signalled its intentions to go to the market independently, especially since the acquisition of South African rights to add to their own. SIS has continued dialogue throughout and made commercially attractive proposals to ARC for SIS to continue to take this content to independent bookmakers alongside the future FACTS service, however ARC believe they will achieve a better position by going to the market themselves.

But I understand that the UK independent bookmakers do not agree with SIS that their FACTS service is the premium channel for independent bookmakers. At a recent forum held in Milton Keynes the 20 or so large UK independents present made it clear to SIS that they would not sign any contract that forced expensive Irish racing on them as part of the RMG ‘whole estate’ policy. Independents have been stung before with RMG content and will be suspicious of SIS’s motives.

We are told the SIS arrangements with RMG start in the spring of 2018. But their contract with ARC ends in December 2017, so for four months SIS will only have Chelmsford City to televise from the British racing fixture list.

We are back with two or three conflicting services, unless you are one of the big 4 bookmakers and have your own studio.
In the past, the larger bookmakers have enjoyed price efficiency over the smaller operators due to volume purchases. But the independents disagree and say the larger firms, with their buying power, have loaded the dice against them. 

“A third way for horse racing coverage”
by Warwick Bartlett