Sunday July 1, 2012 : WILL HILL AND BETFAIR LOCK HORNS OVER RACING LEVY
 
An illustration of intense commercial rivalry?
 
According to reports in The Telegraph newspaper over the weekend, the major rival gambling groups William Hill plc and Betfair plc are about to clash in the UK courts in a bid to get the latter's customers to contribute to the Horse Racing Levy.
 
The Horserace Betting Levy Board ruled last year that punters who use betting exchanges should not have to contribute financially to the sport, and Will Hill, backed by the British Horseracing Authority, is challenging this ruling by the government body.
 
Betfair already pays substantial amounts of money towards the levy in a voluntary initiative.
 
The newspaper reports that next week's judicial review is the latest episode in a long-running battle between traditional UK bookies and Betfair's betting exchange business model.
 
All bookmakers that hold UK licences are required to make a financial contribution to support horse racing in Britain.
 
Betfair’s opponents argue that its exchange betting business model – where punters place bets with other users who hold the opposing view and Betfair takes a cut as commission – attracts professional gamblers who are betting in such volumes that they should be licensed and taxed in the same way as traditional bookies.
 
Betfair is licensed in Gibraltar, as is Will Hill’s internet operation, but makes a voluntary contribution towards British horse racing – last year of some GBP 6 million. It argues that its customers are individuals and not businesses, and should therefore not be required to pay towards horseracing.
 
Stephen Morana, Betfair’s interim chief executive, said he is confident that the ruling by the Horserace Betting Levy Board last year would be upheld.