Trends in Horse Racing Betting for 2022

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Gambling on horse racing has been having to fight for its share of the betting market alongside sports from across the globe in modern times. Despite being badly squeezed, it remains quite common and continues to adapt to an ever-changing market place. Rapid improvements in technology has seen a dramatic shift to online betting, a reduction in high street betting shops and on-course activity. The pandemic also brought new challenges with a temporary halt to racing in the UK and elsewhere and with spectators banned from attending on its resumption. So what trends can we expect to see in horse racing betting during 2022 and beyond?

Horse Racing bouncing back from pandemic

High Street bookmakers were already under pressure before the pandemic so it was inevitable that shops would be forced to close. In many cases this could be seen as merely hastening the shift to online betting. William Hill intends to close a further 100 shops in the UK but the impact of the pandemic on the industry was not as harsh as was originally feared. William Hill employ around 7,000 staff in the UK and their recovery was deemed sufficient for them to return a £24.5 million layoff claim to the government.

888 Holdings is currently in the process of completing the £2.2 billion acquisition of William Hill International and recently reported a record year in 2021. They expect to complete the purchase from US casino business Caesars Entertainment in late spring/early summer. 888 Holdings will retain the William Hill brand but will have a retail presence for the first time through the purchase of their 1400 shops.

Turnover of on course horse racing betting has been in steady decline, although a dramatic drop in 2020 was obviously due to covid restrictions being in place. Many racecourses face an uphill struggle to get back to where they were pre-pandemic. 

Jockey Club Racecourses in the UK are confident that racing will bounce back strongly. They recently announced that prize money at their fifteen tracks will exceed £58million for the first time in 2022. This is more than £12 million up on the previous year and £5 million up on pre-pandemic levels. Irish racing estimates up to 65 million Euros of lost commercial income during the pandemic despite Government subsidies. They are now facing the task of convincing customers back through their gates.

Social betting slow to pick up in the UK

The growth in online gambling in the UK is expected to continue to rise as the betting public adopt mobile phone apps. The expansion of high-speed internet across the UK is expected to continue to attract users to the expanding range of horse racing betting apps operating in the UK. Bettors are already finding it second nature to be able to place their bets without being tied to a single location. 

With ever greater attention given to safe gambling, the emergence of social betting is something that could take hold in 2022. As the emphasis on high street shops fades, people are being encouraged to discuss their horse racing bets and tips online. This is not a new phenomenon with the Online Betting Guide having established just such a community in 2002. 

Sports betting sites are now encouraging their customers to engage socially online. Innovations include “Request a bet” by Sky Betting, allowing people to bet as a group rather than as individuals. Betbull allows customers to post their bets publicly or to selected followers. It has so far been slow to take off in the UK but it is an interesting concept.

In terms of which betting races make most appeal, the dominance of the Cheltenham Festival betting in March is almost total. Of the ten top betting races in terms of turnover in 2020, nine of them were at the Cheltenham Festival. The only other race to feature was the Epsom Derby, although it should be noted that there was no Grand National that year due to the pandemic.

The previous year the Aintree Grand National had held its traditional place at the top of the list. The Cheltenham Gold Cup was top of the pile in 2020, ahead of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (the opening race of the meeting) and the Triumph Hurdle (the first race on Gold Cup day). It is not only the feature races that attract business with the three novice hurdles and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle all in the top ten.

The Epsom Derby remains the jewel in the crown for flat racing in the UK where only Royal Ascot can compete with Cheltenham in terms of festival meetings. Only the Derby kept Royal Ascot races out of top spot in turnover between April and June with Ascot filling the next nine places.

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