BGC call for Grand National to be run once betting shops reopen
Delaying this year’s Grand National until after betting shops in England re-open their doors on April 12 will provide a much-needed boost to racing and the high street and allow the many people who only visit a betting shop once a year to take part in the world’s greatest race, according to the Betting and Gaming Council.
The showpiece steeplechase is due to take place at Aintree on Saturday, April 10.
However, that is two days before betting shops are scheduled to come out of lockdown under the roadmap published by the Government on Monday.
An estimated £125 million is traditionally staked on the world-famous race by millions of punters – with nearly half of all bets being placed in high street betting shops, making it their busiest day of the year.
Figures also show that the money staked on the Grand National in betting shops is worth an extra £1million in levy payments for racing.
But if betting shops remain shuttered when the race takes place, much of this money will not be staked at all, depriving racing of much-needed funding and the opportunity to promote racing to the widest audience possible.
Many customers only visit a betting shop once a year for their annual flutter on the National and will simply choose not to place a bet online.
The UK’s 6,700 betting shops employ 32,600 workers – nearly a quarter of whom are under 25 – and pay around £1bn a year in tax, plus £60m in business rates.
Meanwhile, a study by ESA Retail found that 89% of betting shop customers combine their trip to the bookies with visits to other local businesses, meaning delaying the Grand National until after April 12 could also be a huge boost for high streets across the country.
It would also provide a massive boost to the nation’s morale and provide racing – which normally receives £350m a year from the betting industry through sponsorship, media rights and the betting levy – with an economic boost at a time when courses are trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: “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. 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.”