BHA warns CMA over Coral-Ladbrokes merger

Nick Rust (BHA) at the press conference

BHA chairman Nick Rust has written to the CMA

  PICTURE: Dan Abraham  

 By Bill Barber 8:00PM 7 JUL 2016 

THE proposed merger between Coral and Ladbrokes has been dealt a blow after the BHA told the competition watchdog it would have an adverse impact on both customers and the horseracing and greyhound industries.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust’s submission to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), published on Thursday, warned the merger could lead to a “deterioration” in odds and a reduction in the value of media rights that could potentially force the closure of smaller racecourses.

The BHA also suggested that Coral and Ladbrokes should be made to contribute to the levy through their online business in advance of the proposed replacement system due to be introduced next April.

Concern over restriction of competition

In May the CMA told Coral and Ladbrokes they would need to sell 350 to 400 betting shops in order for their £2.3 billion merger to go ahead.

While not opposing the deal, Rust – a former senior executive with both Coral and Ladbrokes, who had previously attempted to merge in 1998 – wrote last month in response to those findings to CMA inquiry chair Martin Cave to say the BHA was worried their investigation had not “appropriately” considered the impact of the proposed merger on the British racing industry.

Referencing the plans to replace the levy system next year, Rust wrote that the government’s aim was an outcome benefiting racing, betting, the wider economy and consumers.

He went on: “British racing is concerned that the approval of the merger with the current proposed remedies could significantly undermine those objectives through restriction of competition in the UK retail betting market.”

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