Ladbrokes and Coral to leave racecourse betting rings in Ireland and Britain
Parent company to sell pitches to Sid Hooper firm as they exit racecourses
Ladbrokes and Coral are to leave racecourse betting rings in Ireland and Britain. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The changing nature of betting was underlined on Tuesday with confirmation that two of the most recognisable brands in gambling, Ladbrokes and Coral, will no longer be seen in betting rings in Ireland and Britain.
Their parent company GVC announced it is ceasing the operation of all its 106 racecourse betting pitches, including 21 in Ireland. GVC said terms have been agreed to sell all of them to the Sid Hooper firm.
In a statement, GVC’s trading director Tom Ritzema said the decision had “not been taken lightly”, and that several factors had been taken into consideration.
Ritzema said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we are very sad to be calling time on Ladbrokes and Coral’s long-standing presence in the racecourse betting ring.”
There are 17 GVC employees impacted by the decision to close down the racecourse operation, and the company reported a consultation with the affected individuals will begin immediately.
Ritzema added: “A number of factors combined to lead us to conclude that a presence in the racecourse betting ring is no longer a strategic imperative for our two UK brands.
“The volume of business taken through the racecourse pitches is minuscule, compared to the volumes generated in our off-course retail and digital businesses, and we no longer use the operation to hedge into the racecourse betting ring.
“As the racecourse operation is loss-making and no longer has a strategic purpose, we have regrettably reached the decision to sell our pitches and leave the ring.
“The current situation with Covid-19, and racing behind closed doors, expedited the decision but was not one of the factors behind it.
“Standing in the betting ring will always be a huge part of both Ladbrokes and Coral heritage and history, and we are immensely proud of that.
“However, the betting landscape has changed immeasurably in recent years, and we need to change with it.”
Although a handful of on-course bookmakers are allowed on British tracks to facilitate small numbers of owners who are allowed go racing, no bookmakers have been allowed on racetracks in Ireland since March’s lockdown.
In their absence an industry starting price system has been used to return an SP on races.
The Irish National Bookmakers Association has said its members have a long history of being central to SP returns. However this latest step will underline concerns that the old system may not return once crowds come back to racing.
On-course bookmakers in Ireland have been told limited numbers of their members will be allowed work at race meetings once coronavirus restrictions here are eased to Level 2.
In such a scenario up to three bookmakers per fixture will be allowed take bets as part of a tentative return to business.
However that looks like being some way in the future with Level 5 restrictions in place until the end of next month and no certainty about a significant easing afterwards.