As Grand National Returns, BGC Warns Ministers not to Spoil the Enjoyment of Punters

Millions of punters can bet on the Grand National in person for the first time in three years this Saturday (9 April) – the biggest betting day of the year.

Due to the Covid pandemic betting shops on hard-pressed high streets across the nation were closed during the Grand National in 2021 while in 2020, the Grand National took the form of a virtual race. It was hugely successful in its own right, with betting companies raising £2.9 million for NHS Charities Together.

But now shops are once again open, with industry experts predicting a bumper year for the “nation’s punt.”

According to industry research conducted by the Betting and Gaming Council:

  • 13m people in the UK will place a bet on the Grand National this Saturday
  • Approximately £250m will be staked on the main event
  • That equates to around 2.5 per cent of all annual horse racing stakes
  • Half of all bets will be placed in shops – around 1,000 bets per shop
  • The Grand National is expected to generate £3m in tax revenues for the Treasury and £2m in horse racing levy to support the sport.

Betting shops support 46,000 jobs on the UK’s hard-pressed high streets, contribute £1bn a year in tax to the Treasury and another £60m in business rates to local councils. Meanwhile, a study by ESA Retail found that 89 per cent of betting shop customers combine their trip to the bookies with visits to other local businesses.

An estimated half a billion will watch the Grand National from 140 different countries, and millions will be placing a bet for the first time this year.

However, this year’s race at Aintree, Liverpool, which was first run in 1839, is being staged amid the biggest shake-up of the regulated betting and gaming industry in a generation that could transform the way the nation enjoys the Grand National by next year.

The anti-gambling lobby have repeatedly called for intrusive affordability checks and a ban on promotions and offers, which would undermine the consumer experience and erode competition in a thriving industry, measures the BGC as urged Ministers to resist.

While the threat of black market gambling still looms large over this year’s race, with an estimated £5m expected to be staked on the Grand National via black market sites.

Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher, said: “Millions of us are going to come together this weekend, from all walks of life, to have a bet on the Grand National.

“It is the nation’s punt, the one time many go and place a bet in their local bookies and enjoy the thrill of horse racing with friends and family.

“It’s fantastic bookies are once again open on high streets, but there could be a sting in the tail next year if anti-gambling prohibitionists get their way.

“Research shows punters would react badly to being asked to submit to instructive affordability checks, or curbs on their consumer experience, with any ban on promotions. One study found 95 per cent of punters would not share bank details in order to place a bet – while 86 per cent of punters feared checks like this would drive gambling underground.

“We want to find workable solutions that protect vulnerable players, but blanket affordability checks would affect millions of punters, drive many to the black market, and suck up to £100m out of horseracing, jeopardising jobs and local economies.

“With the nation’s eyes on horse racing and betting this weekend, we want the Government to recognise the popularity of betting, its unique place in our national culture, and ensure they address punter’s concerns and protect jobs in the upcoming White Paper.”

A White Paper setting out the Government’s proposed review of the Gambling Act is expected in the coming weeks.

But the BGC, which represents the UK’s regulated and betting and gaming industry, has warned against changes that could threaten the industry’s contribution to the economy, sport and ongoing work to promote safer gaming.

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