The Cheltenham Festival has once again proved the importance of the bookies-punters relationship.
The eternal battle between punters and bookies, both land-based and online sportsbooks in the United Kingdom, continues. There’s nothing more satisfying to a bettor than winning a couple of quid from a bookie, and the recent times were quite good in this respect with the Champions League matches and the Cheltenham Festival.
Every year in the middle of March, an impressive crowd of corporate celebrities, professional gamblers and just plain ol’ spectators gather on the banks of the Severn to watch horses run. The days at Cheltenham are enjoyable, provided of course that you’re not one of the jockeys. And the enormous crowd this year, has once again proved that not all of the betting under British gambling laws is done online these days.
Betting at the Cheltenham Festival
Cheltenham Festival proves bookies-punters connection
• The event underlined importance of land-based betting under British gambling laws
• William Hill and Ladbrokes were the biggest sportsbooks present
• Punters and bookies alike are now awaiting the World Cup in Brazil
Several tens of thousands have made it through the gates of the festival this week. The minimum bets were set at GBP 5, and in case punters were laying down more than GBP 500 on a single bet, they could negotiate the odds they were receiving.
Naturally, such a thing is impossible at online bookies, where the bosses are far away and any personal interaction is out of the question.
Another known fact is that sportsbooks are making up at least half of Cheltenham’s atmosphere. If there was no betting, there would’ve been no eccentric figures and the ladies following their every step. Luckily wagering on the horse racing is allowed and each day of the Festival resembles a gathering from the 19th century.
History of betting
The Betting House Act was enacted back in 1853, the bookies and the punters have a silent understanding. They know they need each other to stop lawmakers from banning their favorite pastime.
In 1890 a National Anti-Gambling League was formed to oppose the betting activity, and they have even succeeded to close down some racecourses. However, sports betting is still going strong in everyday British life.
Biggest bookies at Cheltenham
There are two most prominent betting companies present at Cheltenham every year. These are William Hill and Ladbrokes, arguably the biggest sports betting companies on the Isles. Their combines market capitalization almost reaches GBP 5 billion, so you can’t exactly call these companies “small-time” bookies.
However, the importance of live bettors is gradually receding for the giant sports betting companies. More and more betting shops are being closed down, while the firms focus on mobile and internet betting sites in the United Kingdom.
William Hill has recently linked up with Playtech, a renowned online gambling software firm. The company then focused heavily on the online part of the business, and started to pull away from Ladbrokes. Back in 2009 the firm’s turnover was around GBP 1 billion, with pre-tax profits of GBP 121, while at the end of last year the turnover has already reached GBP 1.48 billion, and the profits doubled to GBP 257 million.
Ladbrokes on the other hand, had had a pretty tough time. Last year the firm has issued four profit warnings and finally decided to select Playtech for their online ventures as well. Obviously, Ladbrokes is hoping the Israeli software company will do the same wonders it did for Will Hill.
Cheltenham is one of the most significant events for Ladbrokes, where the company is generating around GBP 6 million from “high-rolling” bettors in 2013, although the same figure in 2012 was at GBP 30 million. But the current focus of the betting firm is on the upcoming World Cup, and thus a user-friendly website for that purpose is priority number 1.
Besides the deal with Playtech, Ladbrokes has also established a brand new mobile gambling site on the Mobenga platform. The company has also opened 121 new betting shops last year at what it dubbed “higher football locations”.
While Ladbrokes CEO, Richard Glynn, has admitted the 2013 financial results weren’t bright, he said that the shift to Playtech software together with “capability upgrades… will begin to deliver tangible benefits from the World Cup onwards”.
Glynn himself has a lot at stake come the World Cup summer. In case Ladbrokes fails to deliver results, the CEO can be out of the job by August. However, several retail targets and a mobile sportsbook launch can be attributed to his name as successes.