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Kevin Smith

Grand National Betting Soars Despite Sharing Spotlight with Major World Events

12 April 2005

The 2005 Grand National produced record turnover for U.K. bookmakers despite the event splitting TV time with a royal wedding and other major news events.

Over 2 million more people watched Saturday's race on BBC than watched the wedding Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and the event's popularity was reflected in the betting records of major operators, many of whom had record-setting weekends.

William Hill said it smashed its records for the number of bets accepted in a single day via Internet and telephone in the build-up to the race, with a 71 percent increase in the number of bets placed over last year's race. The group reported that it managed more than 25,000 concurrent online users and answered more than 112,000 telephone calls during peak hours. It also reportedly took in more than 300,000 individual bets on Saturday.

William Hill's weekend success was partly the result of a special site-- devoted solely to Grand National betting--which kept its main site up and running during the busy day. The companion site was specially designed to deal with new user signups, and processed 30,000 new accounts on Saturday.

"We operated without a single hitch throughout the entire day, and it is a tribute to all our staff, and particularly the IT staff, that we have set these new records," the company said in a media release.

Online betting exchange Betfair, meanwhile, said its Web site also proved "extremely resilient" during what amounts to one of the busiest days on the U.K. horseracing calendar.

Stephen Hill, Betfair's chief executive, said they avoided down time "thanks to the dedication of our staff and the £30 million investment we have made in our technology."

Among several Betfair records set on Grand National Day were new peaks for outbound bandwidth usage, which reached speeds of up to 143 MB per second. The old record, 110 MB per second, was recorded during the Cheltenham Festival in March 2004.

Betfair said it transacted 99.9 percent of all bets in less than one second and took 14,992 calls in one day--more than 2,000 more than the amount taken during the Cheltenham festival.

The company also set a new turnover record for matched bets: £4.25 million on race day. The old record of £3.29 million was reached during the 2004 Grand National. The group also reached a new high for number of bets taken: 2.5 million (up from 2 million in 2004).

Ladbrokes didn't fair as well on the technology end, but company managed to set betting records even with its site crashing temporarily on Saturday.

"Basically, there were no major problems, and takings on the Internet were still up on last year," Balthazar Fabricius, a spokesman for the company said.

Victor Chandler also reported brisk betting during the race, with a 30 percent increase from last year in turnover on the Grand National.

The 2005 event cemented its place as a British institution, with more than 9.5 million viewers compared to 7.3 million people tuning into the royal wedding.

BBC racing editor Carl Hicks said the increased viewership no doubt helped to fuel betting at bookmakers.

"We are absolutely delighted that the race has shown that as a national event, it can outstrip most annual events and even a few one-offs," Hicks said. "I think 9.5 million is great; it's a huge figure, and also the re-run got a peak of 7.8 million, which is an astonishing figure. Up against a treble like the announcement of a general election, a pope's funeral and a royal wedding, the Grand National established itself as the biggest event in Britain's sporting calendar."

Grand National Betting Soars Despite Sharing Spotlight with Major World Events is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith