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Jeremy Hunt expresses disappointment after Levy talks break down 1/11/2010
Press Association
• Talks between the racing and gambling industries break down • Levy must now be determined by Hunt and the government

Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, has expressed his disappointment over the failure of the racing and gambling industries to reach agreement over the 50th Levy scheme.

The Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Bookmakers' Committee concluded at 11.30pm last night that there was no realistic possibility of coming to an agreement by the midnight deadline. That means the scheme, which runs from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012, will now have to be determined by Hunt.

"Frankly the government should never be the last resort in an essentially commercial negotiation," Hunt said. "We have therefore announced our intention to remove the role of the Secretary of State from determining the Levy scheme in future – and I hope this time will be the very last one that I have to be involved."

The Levy Board chairman, Paul Lee, added: "It is very disappointing that it has not proved possible to reach agreement on the 50th scheme. Despite protracted and in-depth discussion at board meetings and elsewhere, ultimately the positions of Racing and the Bookmakers' Committee remained significantly apart."

Will Roseff, the chairman of the Bookmakers' Committee, said: "I am very frustrated. The Bookmakers' Committee constructed a very good argument which realistically addressed the challenges faced by bookmakers and racing. That the HBLB has elected not to approve the recommendations of the Bookmakers' Committee is further evidence that the current system has failed.

"It is now time to replace the Levy process with a commercial relationship that will reflect racing's true worth in the highly competitive bookmaking sector. I truly believe that racing must face up to the reality that is affecting every other aspect of the British economic landscape.

"As the nation looks to a future of austerity and cuts in spending of public money, racing still wants substantial increases from the HBLB. This failure brings more uncertainty to an industry that needs a period of stability to plan for a new commercial reality come what may, we will continue to seek to work with Racing to achieve a satisfactory long-term solution."

The decision on the Levy will be made by Hunt on the basis of advice from the minister for sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson. A timetable will be announced in due course.