With perennial concerns about prize money and keeping owners and trainers engaged in the sport, those involved in the governance of horse racing are always on the look out for new investment opportunities.
So congratulations might be given to the Jockey Club, who have penned a lucrative five-year commercial deal with the online casino software supplier Playtech.
The actual terms of the agreement are yet to be revealed, although it is known that Playtech will provide ‘cross product’ content on behalf of the Jockey Club, with the first release scheduled for as early as the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Playtech are renowned for their slot games, and they have previously created the title ‘Frankie Dettori Magic 7’ which remains a favourite amongst online casino enthusiasts.
A specialist in poker and bingo too, it’s not known exactly what Playtech have up their sleeve for racing, although a new entry into their ‘Sporting Legends’ series is expected. The Jockey Club, of course, also owns the licensing rights for Cheltenham, the Grand National and Epsom, home of The Derby, which could also act as inspiration for new content.
The chief commercial officer at the Jockey Club, the aptly-named Charlie Boss, was pleased to reveal the new partnership.
“We are delighted to partner with Playtech, whose industry leading software and expertise will help translate the success of our historic brands into the iGaming market for the first time. Playtech also share our values on putting safer gambling at the heart of their products.”
However, not everybody is as effusive in their praise for the deal….
Luck or Skill?
One of the criticisms of the partnership is that Playtech specialise in games of pure chance, which is in complete conflict with the notion of horseracing betting as a game steeped in skill and hard graft.
Racing chiefs have been very keen to differentiate betting as a pastime in which the punter is able to increase their chances of winning through the application of research – a central argument in ensuring bookmakers are treated differently to other betting operators by the regulator.
That argument has been brought into starker focus due to the government’s review of the Gambling Act, which could see affordability checks and other draconian measures discussed.
If affordability checks are introduced, it could force punters to use black market bookies or stop betting altogether – that could cost the sport as much as £60 million in annual revenue.
The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) have been very keen to differentiate between sports betting and games of chance.
“The HBF’s submission to the Gambling Act review made the case that betting and casino games should have different regulatory arrangements, as there needs to be a clear distinction between games of skill, a unique selling point of betting on horse racing, and something which the sport should be emphasising, and games of chance.
“With the Gambling Act review white paper still to be published, this announcement seems poorly timed. High street bookmakers have re-invented themselves as online casinos and have knowingly conflated horseracing betting and games of chance.”