Greyhound welfare Contents

5Financing welfare and the role of bookmakers

73.This section identifies a number of pressing issues relating to the financing of greyhound welfare and the role of bookmakers. Greyhounds are bred for the sole purpose of racing, that is, to provide a betting product. In our eyes this means bookmakers have a degree of responsibility to support their post-racing welfare particularly, as the previous chapter identified, in the area of rehoming.

74.The bookmaking industry made a net profit of £237 million from greyhound racing in 2014, at a margin of 18%, significantly higher and less volatile than for a number of other sports.46 It paid back around £33 million into the greyhound industry.47 This is divided into two payments: fees for rights to televise races and a voluntary contribution for greyhound welfare.

BAGS racing

75.In 2014, the Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS) paid £26 million to tracks for the rights to televise daytime races put on for bookmakers. BAGS currently contracts with 20 tracks to broadcast approximately 29,000 greyhound races a year into UK betting shops. This represents about 55% of the total number of greyhound races run in the UK48. The 2007 Lord Donoghue Report into the industry found that:

“If were it not for BAGS, there would no longer be a sustainable licensed greyhound racing industry in Great Britain.”49

76.We find no reason to disagree with this statement today. The all-day racing schedules of BAGS requires large numbers of dogs. As seen in the previous chapter, the quantity of dogs entering the industry a year does not appear to correspond with the number of available rehoming places. Another consequence of high demand, as identified by the Donoghue report, is the wastage of those bred for racing but that do not make the grade as racers.50

77.BAGS racing supports the majority of all betting income and sustains the continued viability of the sport. However, it also drives high demand for dogs with potentially negative consequences for overbreeding and post-racing welfare.

Voluntary levy

78.The second payment, and primary source of income for GBGB, is the voluntary levy paid by some bookmakers. The levy is collected and managed by the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF) under direction from GBGB.51 The BGRF estimates that over 90% of licensed bookmaker offices (LBOs) contribute to the fund but states that not all payments from bookmakers include online or overseas trading.52 The levy currently stands at 0.6% of turnover but evidence we received identified a worrying decline in this income stream: in 2015 contributions totalled £6.9 million, down from over £14 million in real terms almost a decade ago.53

Graph 1. Declining BGRF Income

Source: Data taken from BGRF written submission to the inquiry54

79.Given the voluntary nature of the levy, there is an inherent risk that the funds provided—the main source of welfare funding—may reduce, or even dry up, at any point. A well-publicised example occurred in 2013 when Betfair, a major online betting exchange, decided to stop making contributions.

80.High welfare standards require financing. We are worried by the decade-long trend of declining income from the voluntary levy paid by bookmakers. We are also concerned that this revenue stream is threatened by the growth of online and overseas betting operations, which do not tend to make the voluntary contribution.

81.We recommend that changes in the betting consumer market, such as online, mobile and overseas trading, must be better reflected in the regulatory regime. Bookmakers profiting from greyhound racing have a responsibility to support greyhound welfare whether they trade from the High Street or trade online.

Improving welfare finance

82.All welfare activity is dependent on adequate finance. We recognise that the GBGB has tried to protect its welfare budget in a difficult financial climate, even though it has fallen in real terms. In 2015 the welfare allocation by the BGRF was approximately £2.9 million of a total £6.9 million collected. Numerous submissions to the inquiry questioned why this amount was not greater and why expenditure on areas such as stadia improvements should be prioritised over direct welfare payments.55 The graph below sets out the allocation of levy money for the past three years.

Graph 2. Distribution of BGRF expenditure 2013–2015

Source: Data taken from British Greyhound Racing Fund Annual Report 201556

83.The majority of total rehoming costs are covered independently by charities. The current level of BGRF core funding meets the cost of homing approximately 33% of the number of greyhounds homed by the RGT each year.57 It is commendable that charities manage to raise so much from private giving, but we suggest the estimated annual £230 million net profit for bookmakers is sufficient to cater for a more generous contribution.

Graph 3. Financing welfare

Source: Data taken from BGRF written submission to the inquiry58

84.We recommend that GBGB considers the following options for increasing revenue:

A statutory levy?

85.A strong welfare system requires commensurate financing. A more permanent solution to the issue of welfare finance may be found in the form of a statutory levy. Again, horseracing provides an interesting comparison. The statutory levy paid by bookmakers in horseracing raised around £70 million in 2015 and supports infrastructure improvements, a reduction in injuries, better data and higher prize money.59

86.Greyhound racing is currently at the whim of bookmakers who may choose to contribute or not. The voluntary system allows bookmakers, like Betfair, to walk away from their responsibilities if the industry tries to increase the levy. It also has the perverse consequence of making those that do contribute less competitive against those that do not. A statutory levy would provide both a more stable income stream for animal welfare activities as well as creating an even playing field between contributing bookmakers.

87.We initially heard from Defra Minister George Eustice that there was a possible case for introducing a statutory levy but that it may contravene European state aid laws.60 Since speaking with colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) he stated the government has: “no plans to introduce a statutory Levy for the greyhound industry”.61 DCMS Minister Tracy Crouch has contacted the bookmaking industry to raise concerns about the declining contributions and restate the principle that betting operators should make a fair contribution to a sport from which they profit.62 It is unclear what response these conversations have elicited.

88.We believe government should apply greater pressure to bookmakers to pay a fair reflection of all the profits they make. If a voluntary agreement cannot be struck we recommend that government introduce a statutory levy of 1% of gross turnover. This will ensure the welfare of greyhounds is adequately funded in the future.

47 ibid

48 Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service Limited (GHW 57)

49 Lord Donoughue’s Report, 2007 2007, ‘Independent Review of the greyhound industry in Great Britain’, p.22

51 GBGB make up half of its executive board which is completed by representatives from the bookmaking industry.

52 British Greyhound Racing Fund (GHW 27) para 2.03 - 2.04

53 British Greyhound Racing Fund (GHW 27) para 2.06

54 British Greyhound Racing Fund (GHW 27)

55 Q 69 [Dr. Bentall], Q 72 [Dr Adams] and Greyhound Trainers Association (GHW 69)

56 Taken from British Greyhound Racing Fund’s ‘Annual Report and Accounts 2014–15’ -

57 Retired Greyhound Trust (GHW 56) para 6.7

58 British Greyhound Racing Fund (GHW 27)

59 - The horseracing betting levy funds prize money, regulation, integrity and veterinary science.

60 Q 196 [ Mr Eustice, Defra Minister]

61 Letter received by the Committee, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (GHW 75)

62 Department for Culture, Media and Sport (GHW 28) para 5.1 In September 2015 the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Tracey Crouch MP, wrote to the two main trade bodies representing bookmakers who take bets on British greyhound racing.

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 22 February 2016