The Betting and Gaming Council has voiced its support for a delay to the Grand National racing event until after betting shops reopen.
The Grand National, one of the busiest days for betting shops, is scheduled to take place on April 10th, two days before betting shops will be allowed to reopen under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The British Horseracing Authority is reportedly in talks with gambling operators to delay the event, potentially swapping it with the Scottish Grand National, which is set to take place on April 17th.
In a new post on the Betting and Gaming Council website, the BGC has announced its support for a delay to the big-name event, claiming that postponing the race will provide a “much-needed boost” to both racing and the high street.
Stating that an estimated £125 million is staked on the event by more than one million punters and that the money staked on the Grand National is worth an additional £1 million in levy payments, the BGC warns that should betting shops remain closed, most of that money will not be wagered.
The BGC also states that most customers only visit a betting shop once a year for the Grand National and choose not to bet online, highlighting the importance of having betting shops open for the event.
In addition, the organisation referenced an ESA Retail study which found that 89% of betting shop customers combine their trip with visits to other shops and businesses, suggesting that a delay would also help local high-street businesses.
Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said in a statement: “Delaying the Grand National until betting shops are open is definitely an idea worth exploring. I appreciate that this is not without its challenges, but we are willing to do all we can to help iron out any difficulties.
“Ensuring that the once-a-year punters are able to pop in to their local bookies to have a flutter, supporting their local high street, on the world’s most famous horse race would also help make the Grand National a truly national celebration as we begin to reopen the economy.”
He continued: “And it would ensure that we engage as many people as possible in this great British event, showcasing the fabulous sport of racing. This would also provide a much-needed and timely boost for racing and the high street after such a torrid year for both.”
Prince Minister Boris Johnson’s announcements that casinos and betting shops will reopen and that spectators will once again be allowed to attend events has garnered considerable praise from the gambling industry, particularly from the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA).
The BHA issued a statement this week welcoming Boris Johnson’s roadmap, particularly as the racing industry was hit hard by Covid-19 safety measures. All races were cancelled during the first UK lockdown and were only allowed to resume last June behind closed doors and without spectators.
Speaking about the Prime Minister’s plans, a spokesperson for the BHA told iGamingBusiness: “The whole sport has worked hard to abide by our race-day protocols to allow racing to continue behind closed doors and support the many livelihoods that depend on our industry.
“British racing’s classification as an elite sport made this possible. But we do miss owners and we do miss spectators whose presence at meetings contributes so much to the thrill of our sport.”
They continued: “We have already introduced additional measures to reduce the risks of transmission of the virus and have further options under consideration. We will now engage with [the] government to highlight our ability to move beyond the current limitation on essential staff only as that is possible and allow the return of owners.
“We have further discussions with officials scheduled, which will enable us to draw up specific proposals for race meetings, including potential pilot events.”
The Rank Group, which operates Grosvenor Casinos, also welcomed Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, particularly praising the removal of the controversial 10 PM casino curfew, which required all gambling venues to close their doors early.
In an exclusive interview with Gambling Insider, David Williams, the Director of Public Affairs at the Rank Group, said: “We’re giving a cautious welcome to the Prime Minister’s roadmap for reopening. In recent weeks, we were determined to make the point that casinos had to remain hitched to the wider hospitality sector.
“Many of the frustrations of 2020 were born out of the unfair and illogical carving out of our venues from the rest of hospitality, but that was corrected late last year and we’re pleased that we’re in the pack again now.”
Despite the good news, Williams warned that the gambling industry will still have to face a tough few months. He said: “There’s still a long way to go until mid-May, hence our caution, but providing there are no further setbacks, we’ll be looking forward to giving our customers the best – and safest – experience around when we finally get to unlock our doors.”
Williams’ comments come a week after Debbie Husband, the National Director of Operations for Grosvenor UK, penned a blog post for the BGC website urging the UK Government to scrap the 10 PM casino curfew, which she claims “crippled” the casino sector.
She said in her post: “Over half of our revenues are generated after 10 PM, and the hour before midnight is typically the busiest of any 24-hour trading period. That’s hardly a surprise when you think about the nature of casinos. Individuals come to enjoy what we offer in a safe, well-ventilated, regulated environment. Scrap the curfew and give us a chance of rebuilding our business.”