No cuts to Jockey Club racing prize contribution for 2019
Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) will not cut its contribution to prize money for the UK horse racing industry in 2019, despite admitting it faces a multi-million pound drop in media rights revenue in the coming year.
JCR will provide £27.1m (€30m/$34.4m) to the pool used to pay winners' prizes across the 347 scheduled fixtures taking place at its 15 racecourses in 2019. This will see it reduce investment in other areas, such as improving its facilities.
By maintaining its funding level, JCR noted that its races would remain eligible for the industry's Appearance Money Scheme (AMS). This ensures prizes are available for at least the first four finishers in each race, and that total prize funds are at least £900 above the minimum value.
JCR's decision comes as the racing industry braces for a drop in media rights revenue from the retail betting sector, as a resut of shop closures. With maximum stakes on B2 gaming machines set to be cut to £2 from April 2019, around 1,000 licensed betting offices are expected to be closed.
Despite the challenging environment, chief executive Paul Fisher said that JCR was committed to supporting the racing industry.
“We’ve had some tough decisions to make and we’ve chosen to prioritise our contribution to prize money because we know how important it is to racing’s participants,” he said. “We will maintain this record contribution from our resources for as long as we can, which comes at a cost to other areas of investment, such as improving our facilities.”
Fellow racecourse owner Arena Racing Company (ARC) has already announced that it will reduce its executive contribution to prize money for races taking place at its tracks to £15.3m.
Fisher admitted that JCR would continue to monitor the impact of shop closures on media rights revenue: “I hope people will understand we need to keep this decision under review in case LBO media rights revenues are hit harder and faster than the independent estimates, and we publish all our figures to be transparent on that,” he said.
“It’s also not just a case of when legislative changes kick in; it’s also about when betting shop leases come up.”
The Racecourse Association chair Maggie Carver praised JCR for its commitment to prize money in an era of significant financial uncertainty, describing it as a boost to the UK industry.
“It is a challenging time for racecourses of all sizes with a wide range of business models and the RCA will continue to support all of its members as they deal with the rapidly changing media rights landscape,” she said.
Philip Freedman, chairman of the Horsemen's Group, added: “Horsemen will be relieved to know that Jockey Club Racecourses are maintaining their prize money levels in 2019, and recognise that as media rights income falls this represents a further investment by the Club in the sport.
"Ensuring that all races are unlocked and preserving the 33% increase in grass roots values are particularly important for the vast majority of the horse population, on which the fixture list is dependent.”
Image: Dan Heap