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Racecourse operator fights to avert boycotts after reducing prize money

Arena Racing Company (ARC), the operator of 16 racecourses in the UK, is fighting to avert a boycott of its tracks after reducing its prize money.

Leading trainer Ralph Beckett has emailed 500 fellow trainers calling on them to boycott ARC races next week following the track operator’s decision to make a £3m (€3.5m/$4m) cut in its prize purse for 2019.

ARC revealed the reduction last December, claiming that it anticipates a sharp fall in media-rights income owing to the UK government’s decision to cut the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in April. Racecourses sell “bet-to-view” media rights to high-street bookmakers based on their number of outlets, and the reduced FOBT revenues are predicted to lead to widespread shop closures.

A deal brokered by the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) yesterday to shift £230,000 of prize money from more prestigious events to the lower end of the scale has failed to prevent the trainers from taking unilateral action.

After the meeting, BHA chief executive Nick Rust called on the sport to work together. “We know there are difficult times ahead, and a common approach is the best way to respond. I believe we can achieve that over the next four weeks if we can maintain the spirit of the agreement we’re announcing today.”

Four races at next week’s Lingfield fixture have been re-opened to allow more time for entries. Last week the racecourse held a race featuring just one horse and failed to attract any entries for another.

The Jockey Club, the operator of 15 racecourse in Britain, took the decision to freeze prize money at its tracks, rather than reduce it, over similar concerns about a drop in media revenues in December last year.

It is estimated the closure of betting shops could result in a £40m to £60m reduction in media rights revenues.

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