Ireland’s on-course bookmakers threaten to strike from Tuesday

Bookies unhappy at how meetings cater for off-course interests and charges for standing

 

Ireland’s on-course bookmakers have said they can no longer guarantee a service on the country’s racetracks.

The Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association (INPBA) has said its members may not stand at Tuesday’s meeting in Punchestown – and at other fixtures beyond that – in a row with both the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).

The bookmakers are unhappy with race planning, the intervals between races, and also charges they pay to get into meetings.

“We have to pay five times the admission fee to get into any meeting. So if the admission is €20, we have to pay €100 just to stand.

“We have no problem paying that for the big meetings or at weekends. But at midweek fixtures where attendances are very poor we are looking for changes,” prominent layer, Ray Mulvany, said at Navan on Sunday.

“We’ve been in talks [with AIR and HRI] to explain that things have changed, our industry has changed, and we need some relief.

“We’ve met three times in the last seven weeks and we’ve been met at all stages with nothing,” he added.

The INPBA stressed it didn’t want to effectively go on ‘strike’. It also underlined it wants to engage in negotiations, with the tracks, into encouraging more people to go racing during midweek in particular.

However, it is unhappy with how it believes fixtures are currently being staged to cater for off-course interests, especially with the fixture list having expanded to 335 meetings in 2019.

An INPBA statement stated: “Race intervals are common place at 35 minutes with eight-race programmes becoming very prevalent.

“Racecourse attendances have suffered badly, especially at midweek meetings which have caused on-course betting turnover to decline by 75 per cent in the last ten years.

“The decline in turnover and the burden of servicing the additional 55 meetings per year is no longer viable for the on-course market.

“The increase in the number of race meetings in the last decade has led to a serious decline in the average attendance at fixtures, consequently leaving the betting ring woefully short of customers.

“The racecourses have recognised this trend in dealing with other racecourse business but have refused to reduce the charges to bookmakers who have effectively been told to take it or leave it.

“Individual bookmakers can no longer sustain these losses and remedial action is necessary if the betting ring is to survive.

“Therefore we give notice that from November 24 a bookmaking service will no longer be guaranteed at all race meetings.

“We apologise to racegoers – very few alas – that may be inconvenienced and remind the racecourses that the betting ring cannot function without customers.”

HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh declined to comment on the matter on Sunday while the AIR spokesman, Paddy Walsh, was unavailable.

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