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Biting Back: Bookies need to dig deep for NI racing

By Frank Brownlow

It's time for our friendly bookmakers to dig deep into their pockets and back Northern Ireland's racing industry.

Ulster's two tracks, Down Royal and Downpatrick, are the poor relations compared to their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain when it comes to financial support from bookmakers.

Bookmakers in the Republic contribute around 18,000 euros per shop, while the figure in Great Britain is approximately £6,000.

In Northern Ireland the sum is a paltry £1,100.

In the Republic, racing also receives a percentage of on-line gambling - a sum that runs into millions and is increasing annually.

It's a situation that greatly diminishes Ulster's chances of producing another Tony McCoy. And one of Northern Ireland's top racing figures has warned that it has to change - and fast.

Jim Nicholson is chairman of Down Royal and sponsors the course's Festival feature, the JNwine.com Champion Chase.

"We cannot survive on the current level of funding - the sport as we know it will be gone in three years," he said.

"Northern Ireland has always been the poor relation in this regard and this continues to be the case.

"Our politicians are aware of the situation and seem sympathetic and we are continuing to lobby on the issue.

"Four thousand people are employed in the industry here and the racing itself is the shop window. There is potential for many more jobs.

"We had 16,000 people through the gates for the Festival but there's only so much we can do."

Any generous bookies out there?

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