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Horse Racing (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Background and Policy Objectives

3.The Horse Racing (Northern Ireland) Order 1990 (the 1990 Order) is the legal basis for the Horse Racing Fund (HRF/the Fund) in Northern Ireland. The Fund is made up from a levy collected from licensed bookmakers in Northern Ireland and was set up in order to provide financial support to horseracing at Northern Ireland’s two racecourses at Downpatrick and the Maze, also known as, Down Royal.

4.A charge on bookmakers to support racecourses dates back to 1961. It was first introduced in Great Britain to offset the decline in race day revenue (gate receipts), following the introduction of legislation which meant that people wishing to place a bet on a horse race no longer needed to attend the racecourse. The charge was paid by bookmakers to support the racecourses as there is a direct link between the two, with some of the bookmakers’ income deriving directly from betting on horseracing.

5.Prior to 1976, both racecourses in Northern Ireland received a small amount of government assistance. After 1976, horseracing at Down Royal was considered to have the most potential for development, and funding was provided via the Horse Racing and Betting (Northern Ireland) Order 1976. The Fund was administered by the then Department of Agriculture and was financed by annual contributions from Northern Ireland licensed bookmakers. It provided financial assistance towards prize money for races and the costs of technical and personnel services required on race days, as well as assistance towards the cost of improvements to the race track and facilities for participants and spectators.

6.The 1990 Order extended the scope of the HRF to include both of Northern Ireland’s racecourses, and narrowed the range of assistance it could provide to prize money for races, the costs of technical and personnel services required on race days and purposes to ensure the safety of spectators at race meetings or the proper conduct of racing. Under this legislation, licensed bookmakers in Northern Ireland pay an annual levy, which the Department is required to disburse to the two beneficiaries named in the legislation – Downpatrick Race club “the Company” and the Governor and Freeman of the Corporation of Horse Breeders, “the Corporation” – as the operators of horse racecourses “in the vicinity of the Maze and at Downpatrick, in the County of Down”.

7.As a result of a change of management, the Corporation is no longer the operator at the Maze. As a result, payments from the Fund to Down Royal racecourse were suspended in 2019. Furthermore, payments to Downpatrick were also suspended at that time in order to avoid unfair competition between the two racecourses.

8.Therefore this Act allows for the reinstatement of payments from the Fund, in support of the two racecourses at the Maze and Downpatrick.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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