BGC calls for Grand National to be postponed until betting shops reopen

The UK’s gambling industry standards body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has called for the Grand National to be postponed until retail betting shops are permitted to reopen their doors to the public.

The BGC said that the delay would provide a “timely boost” for both the land-based gambling and horse racing sectors.

Delaying the Grand National

The 2021 Grand National, which is the UK’s headline horse racing event, is set to take place on 10 April at Aintree Racecourse. This is two days before England’s retail betting shops are expected to reopen following a period of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the government’s “roadmap out of lockdown” which confirmed that retail businesses will be allowed to reopen from 12 April.

Responding to the news, the BGC has called for the Grand National to be delayed until after betting shops reopen, so that the land-based sector can cash in on the event. According to the BGC this will provide a boost to the land-based betting and racing sectors.

The BGC estimates that £125m is traditionally staked on the race by millions of bettors, with nearly half of all bets being placed in high street betting shops, making it their busiest day of the year.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said: “Delaying the Grand National until betting shops are open is definitely an idea worth exploring.

“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.”

BHA supports the government’s roadmap

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has also come out in support of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. The BHA said that that it would work with authorities to allow spectators to return safely to racing events as soon as its possible.

If everything goes to plan then sports venues could also reopen their doors to fans from 17 May. 

These venues will be allowed to operate at a capacity of 4,000 people or 50% of capacity, which is lower. Outdoor seated events will be allowed to have 10,000 in attendance or 25% of capacity, whichever is less.

In a statement, the BHA said: “On behalf of British racing and all those who work in our industry, we very much welcome the government’s announcement today of a roadmap for the removal of the current COVID restrictions.

“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.

“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 government to highlight our ability to move beyond the current limitation on essential staff only as soon as that is possible and allow the return of owners.”