A MAJOR deal between the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) and the Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association (INPBA) has been agreed. The Association of Irish Racecourses represents those who own and operate all 26 Irish racecourses, and the new regime will take effect from January 1st at racecourses nationwide.

The deal will see about €500,000 invested by Irish racecourses annually in a bid to secure, strengthen and safeguard the betting ring at all Irish tracks. A 12-month trial basis, with an ongoing review process, was proposed and was swiftly agreed to by the INPBA.

Members of AIR recognised the need to strengthen and safeguard the betting ring with investment to ensure an appropriate number of bookmakers are always on hand, thus ensuring a competitive betting experience for customers at racecourses on any given day.

This revolutionary proposal was devised by AIR and unanimously approved by their membership at an extraordinary general meeting held late last week. It was promptly accepted by the INPBA and will take effect from New Year’s Day, when racing is set to take place at Fairyhouse and Tramore racecourses.

The details of the new arrangement include the abolition of the 0.25% turnover levy and payment in absence pitch fees. Pitch fees were previously set at five times the admission price for all pitch holders, and going forward this will only be payable by the bookmakers who attend on the day.

The deal demands that a minimum of 10 bookmakers will be required to attend every race meeting nationwide, with the exception of all-weather racing where a lower minimum requirement of eight bookmakers will apply. In the event that the required minimum number of bookmakers are not present on any given raceday, all bookmakers holding pitches at that racecourse will be charged full pitch fees in respect of that meeting.

Trial period

The trial period of 12 months will take effect from January 1st, 2022, while an ongoing review has also been agreed. This is to ensure that three months before the end of the year an agreement will be reached between the parties as to how to proceed after the trial period. In the absence of such agreement, all parties will revert to the pitch rules that operated before covid.

Between now and January 1st, when the deal takes effect, the current temporary arrangement will remain in place, but with no limitation on the number of bookmakers who can attend.

Ray Mulvaney, chairman of the INPBA, said of the new arrangement: “The INPBA, AIR and HRI have come to an agreement that will add stability and certainty in the betting ring moving forward, and I would like to thank all those involved in the negotiations. I would also like to wish everybody a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year moving into the future with the on-course bookmakers.

O’Neill’s welcome

Speaking of the announcement Conor O’Neill, chairman of AIR, said: “This deal is a great one for Irish racing as it enhances the racegoers’ experience at our racecourses. The excitement and theatre of the betting ring is undoubtedly part of the raceday experience for our members’ and our valued patrons.

“We all benefit from ensuring the continued existence, competitiveness and indeed the atmosphere the betting ring brings to our racecourses on any given raceday. The investment by members of AIR in this deal is sizable, and demonstrates our collective commitment to enhancing the racegoers’ experience at each of our respective racecourses.”