CCI Dismisses Allegations Of Competition Law Violation By Horse Racing Club
Finding the allegations of anti-competitive practises by Royal Western Indian Turf Club(RWITC) to be lacking in merits, the Competition Commission of India has closed a complaint, dropping further action.
RWITC is a racing club which conducts horse raising in Mumbai and Pune race-courses. It has around 600 approved Horse Owners,46 licensed Horse Trainers and around 80 licensed Horse Jockeys in its membership.
Before the CCI, the informant Habib Rahmohamed Patel alleged that the the members of the Managing Committee, Stewards of the Club and its Board of Appeal were controlling horse racing activity and imposing unfair and discriminatory conditions for getting results in their favour. Without RWITCL's prior approval, no person can own any race horse, train any horse or ride any horse. The informant stated the main horse owners were members of the Managing Committee. They are also closely linked with betting operations. On this basis, he alleged that the RWITC violated Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act, by imposing anti-competitive agreements and abusing its dominance.
In its defence RWITC pointed out that it was carrying out horse racing and betting operations as a licensee under the Bombay Race Course Licensing Act 1912. The rules of the club are framed with the approval of the government. Many top-ranking government officials are ex-officio members of the Managing Committee. Also, the club rules prohibit members of Managing Committee and Stewards of the Club from placing bets in races.
The CCI dealt with the complaint by taking "Market for organisation of horse races by turf clubs in India" as the relevant market. It found that RWITC was only one among the 7 race clubs in India. Out of 145 races conducted in India during the period 2016-18, only 34 were held by RWITC, which is roughly 23% of events.The punter/ general public, who want to bet in horse racing, and the horse owners who want to get their horses registered in races have sufficient options all over India to avail such horse racing service. Since, RWITC was not found to be having dominant position in the relevant market, no case of abuse of dominance under Section 4 was found to be made out.
As regard anti-competitive agreements under Section 3, the allegations were found to be vague and general."The Commission observes that an 'agreement' as defined under Section 2(b) of the Act is a sine qua non to prove any contravention of the provisions of Section 3 of the Act. The Informant in the instant case has not submitted any material pertaining to any such 'agreement'", noted the CCI in its order.
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