During the four days of the Cheltenham Festival 2010, punters in the UK will wager an estimated £600m on the 26 races that will be held in the country. An estimated 200,000 spectators will attend the event, and millions more will watch it on television. The festival represents the pinnacle of the UK jump racing season, and it is one of the largest and most popular horse racing events in the world.
The Cheltenham Festival is also an exciting time for online sportsbooks in the UK. A representative of Paddy Power, Ireland’s largest sportsbook, remarked “It’s a proper bonanza for us. During Cheltenham we see more business in the four days than we normally get in three weeks. There is nothing else like it.”
Despite this boom, however, the horse racing industry is not what it used to be. Attendance at tracks across the UK remained level this year despite the economic downturn, but more and more people, especially the younger generations, are more interested in football, rugby, and cricket.
Many gamblers are also moving away from betting on horses. Some have moved on to placing wagers at British internet casinos instead of venturing out to the tracks. Big sportsbooks like Paddy Power are noticing the trend. They say that 15 years ago, horse racing made up 90% of their business. Today, the number has fallen to about 60%.
The amount of money wagered by British players, however, has increased tremendously over the years, especially since the onset of internet betting in the UK. Seen in this light, there has not really been a decrease in wagers on horses, but rather there has been an increase in other types of betting.
“Horse racing has seen its share of the pie decline – down from an historic 75% – but the pie itself has got bigger,” says Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams.