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Jockey Club reports further commercial growth, but wary of challenges ahead

The Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British horseracing, has reported a 10th consecutive year of commercial growth but has warned of the impact of the government’s crackdown on the betting industry.

The Jockey Club stages some of Britain’s most popular events including the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National Festival and Derby Festival, and said its latest set of full-year financial results allowed it to make a new record contribution to prize money in British horseracing.

Revenues rose by 6.7 per cent year-on-year to a record £214.6m (€248.7m/$277m). This represents turnover growth of 68.2 per cent in a decade when the Jockey Club has focused on creating value for British racing through its commercial operations, which in 2009 represented £127.6m, driven by revenue streams including general admissions, media, hospitality, commercial partnerships, events, training facilities and breeding services.

This allowed the group to contribute a record £27.1m into prize money in 2018 alone – an increase of £4.2m or 18.3 per cent year-on-year and more than double the contribution it made 10 years ago.

In 2018, the Jockey Club returned group operating profit before prize money of £48.1m, up by 7.4 per cent year-on-year. However, after increasing its contribution to prize money, along with investments in facilities, operations and the wider sport, the group’s operating profits fell to £21m from £21.9m and net profits halved to £4.5m from £9.1m.

Racing is expecting media right income to fall due to betting shop closures caused by the government’s decisions on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). In December, the Jockey Club said it is set to freeze prize money contributions at racetracks over fears of betting shop closures. It is believed the government’s decision to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs could lead to the closure of up to 1,000 betting shops.

Simon Bazalgette, the Jockey Club’s group chief executive, said today (Friday): “There’s a lot of positive progress the sport rightly can be proud of, but our next set of results will include the first year of the impact of the changes in the gambling sector and we need to be realistic that we’re now into a time of financial challenge for British racing.

“If the sport as a whole collaborates, innovates and diversifies, we can come out of the other side in good shape. At our core we have a lot of resilience and we need to keep up the good work going on in growing our fan base and not lose sight of the huge role the British public has played in making us Britain’s second biggest spectator sport. What we can guarantee in uncertain times is that the Jockey Club will do everything in our power to support the sport along the way.”

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