BOOKIES are gearing up for record hauls at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, the standout week in the horseracing calendar, as the increasing ease of betting online and on mobiles means more wagers than ever are placed.
The four-day event, which begins tomorrow, is referred to as The bookmakers’ Waterloo and is the industry’s biggest earner, with visitor numbers exceeding 200,000 and hundreds of thousands more betting from home.
The UK’s biggest bookmaker, William Hill, is anticipating that punters will spend a record £50m across its retail and online operations during the four days, with more than 4.5m bets made.
Significantly, a growing proportion of these bets will be placed via smartphones, allowing customers to make wagers spontaneously and on the move.
Mobile betting has been behind much of the growth in profits experienced by the likes of William Hill, Paddy Power and Betfair over the last year, and companies are expecting the platform to be more popular than ever this year.
William Hill is predicting than £1 in every £5 wagered will be done via mobiles and that half of online bets will be via smartphones or tablets, compared to one in 10 last year.
In the run up to Cheltenham’s showpiece event, the Gold Cup, 2,000 bets will be placed per minute on mobile devices.
Despite the record amounts wagered, a successful festival for bookmakers depends on how the favourites perform. Since far more tends to be wagered on favoured horses, bookies hope for a long shot to grab victory, even though they have to pay out large amounts to a select few customers.
CHELTENHAM BY NUMBERS
■ 200,000 spectators turning up, with tickets ranging from £20 to £80.
■ £1 in every £5 to be staked via mobiles, accounting for half of online wagers.
■ 20,000 bottles of champagne and 220,000 pints of Guinness to be served.
■ 650 helicopter landings making Cheltenham the UK’s biggest airfield.
■ 2,000 mobile bets per minute at peak times on William Hill’s apps.