THE threat of a ‘strike’ by on-course bookmakers and racecourses have agreed to engage in “meaningful discussions” in a bid to resolve the current dispute over pitch fees.

Bookmakers are seeking a reduction in the fees they must pay racecourses, even if they do not take up their pitches on low-key days. Racecourses say this would only further discourage bookmakers from providing a service and this would have a knock-on effect for attendances.

After failing to win any concessions from racecourses, bookmakers had threatened to withdraw their services at some upcoming fixtures.

However, on Wednesday morning both parties issued a joint statement, which read: “A meeting was held yesterday (Tuesday, December 3rd) between representatives of The Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association (INPBA) and the Board of The Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) at which it was agreed that all relevant parties would enter into meaningful discussions over the coming weeks with a view to identifying ways to address the current difficulties being experienced by the on-course bookmakers.

“Both parties have agreed that any disruption to service would ultimately impact negatively on their mutual customers and consequently it was collectively agreed that in the best interest of racing there would be no such disruption to on-course bookmaking services for the racing public.”

The statement quoted AIR chairman Conor O’Neill as saying: “I am happy with today’s outcome as it guarantees the continuation of service to our mutual customers. We need to focus on attracting more people to the betting ring and improving the on-course turnover as a result. This is a challenge we need to face in a collaborative fashion.”

Ray Mulvaney, chair of the INPBA, was quoted: “We are encouraged by today’s meeting and we are committed to working with the racecourses to find a mutually acceptable solution that will address the challenges facing the on-course bookmakers.”

It was also agreed that the negotiating teams would not be making any further comment on their discussions until they are complete.