The race to sponsor the Cheltenham Festival's World Hurdle is on, and 32Red is looking like the frontrunner.
The Cheltenham Festival, which takes place in March this year, is one of British horse racing's marquee events, and over the last few weeks it's also become the source of heated discussion. Last October, details of a major sponsorship shakeup began to emerge. In an effort to increase offshore contributions to the racing industry, the British Horseracing Association (BHA) introduced the Authorised Betting Partner (ABP) scheme.
Designed to compensate for some of the £30 million in revenue the BHA estimates that it's losing each year, the scheme gives all offshore operators the voluntary option to sign up to become ABPs and contribute 10.75% of their gross profits to the racing industry. Those who sign up to become ABPs have been promised preferential treatment at affiliated racecourses, as well as more power to negotiate race times and live streaming rates.
However, by far the most significant change for the industry is that non-ABPs will be barred from negotiating new sponsorship deals with courses owned by Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) and Arena Racing Company (ARC). This seismic shift in the British horse racing industry has thrown the fate of Cheltenham's World Hurdle into uncertainty. The course, which is owned by JCR, has stated that it won't negotiate new sponsorship terms with any non-ABP bookmakers.
Ladbrokes' decade-long sponsorship of the World Hurdle, the feature race on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival, is now in doubt, as the betting operator is yet to become an ABP. The race takes place in just over two months and still has no confirmed sponsor, so it's perhaps unsurprising that there's been a public show of interest from 32Red.
The Asian-owned operator, which also has a base in the UK, is one of three companies currently signed up to the ABP scheme (along with Betfair and Bet365), and so far, it's the only one to express public interest in the race.
Perhaps seeing an opportunity in the current industry upheaval, 32Red Chief Executive Officer (and former Ladbrokes Senior Executive), Ed Ware, has confirmed to the media that his company is ready to talk business:
"The short answer is, yes we would be interested. It would be dependent on the detail, but we are always in the market for opportunities."
The 32Red representative went on to explain that his team could move "quickly" to sponsor this year's £300,000 World Hurdle, but his desire would be to secure a long-term partnership with Cheltenham:
"We would want to do it for three or four years. With ITV taking over coverage next year that would be even better."
Although formal talks haven't started, Ladbrokes doesn't appear to be any closer to agreeing to the BHA's ABP terms, so racing fans could well see a slew of World Hurdle betting offers from 32Red in the coming weeks. 32Red is a fully licensed online bookmaker, casino and poker operator.
To check out any of its betting offers, including racing markets for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, sign up and create your account today.