- Gaming technology company Entain projects that this weekend’s Grand National horse racing will be the UK’s biggest ever online sports betting event.
- With the UK’s retail bookmaking locations closed due to COVID-19 that action will likely move online.
- Entain owns two of the UK’s largest bookmakers, Coral and Ladbrokes.
The Grand National has been held yearly at Aintree Racecourse in London since 1839. The handicap steeplechase event over a 4 mile 514 yard course holds a similar place in British culture to the Kentucky Derby in the United States. It’s not only the biggest horse racing event among the general public and mainstream sports media it also attracts betting interest from players who otherwise consider themselves ‘non-bettors’. You might also be ‘shocked’ to learn that like the Kentucky Derby heavy drinking and fancy hats are also involved. Due to a confluence of factors, the 2021 race could be one of the most watched–and most bet–in UK history. In particular, online betting on the Grand National is projected to surge to levels not previously seen on any British sport.
In the US, Entain (LSE:ENT) is best known as MGM Resorts’ (NYSE:MGM) partner in the BetMGM sports wagering platform. They’re also one of the largest retail and online sports betting operators in the UK through their ownership of Ladbrokes and Coral. They’re expecting the 2021 Grand National to become the UK’s biggest ever online sports betting event. This will provide a serious litmus test for Entain as over the past year they’ve transitioned both brands from third party technology solutions to their own proprietary platform.
According to Entain, in a typical year around 13 million people–approximately 1/3 of the UK’s adult population–bet on the Grand National. Much of that is done through the ubiquitous UK retail sports betting locations–but not this year. The bookmaking shops scheduled to reopen on Monday as the UK economy reopens but that means that they *won’t* be open for Sunday’s race. Since 40% of wagering on the Grand National is usually done via retail Entain is expecting much of that to move online. The numbers that they’re predicting are staggering:
Around four million online bets could be placed by customers of Ladbrokes and Coral this weekend more than doubling peak demand of previous major events. This will be, for example, around ten times the level of online bets placed by its UK customers on last year’s FA Cup Final. Entain has enhanced its online customer experience, as well as providing sufficient capacity to manage surging demand, meaning its customers can focus on enjoying the whole experience of this iconic British event.
Sandeep Tiku, Chief Operating Officer at Entain, says that his company is up to the test:
“We’re thrilled that this year’s Grand National event will once again be live and are ready to give customers their best experience ever across all our brands, notably through Ladbrokes and Coral. We’re determined to give all customers a fast, thrilling, and seamless experience notwithstanding unprecedented numbers betting online.”
“We’ve successfully completed one of the biggest migrations of brands and customers seen in our industry to our in-house global technology platform to give all our customers the best experience. We’re ready to handle many times the number of customer bets and logins per minute on Grand National day as on a very busy Saturday.”
US residents that want to watch the Grand National will have to find a streaming outlet online. It’s a bit tricky to watch the official stream via the ITV hub because you’ll need both a valid UK TV license *and* a VPN service. Strange that such a huge sporting event in the UK is such an afterthought in the US that it is actually difficult to find coverage. The race is going to go on as planned despite the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. There will be two minutes of silence before the race and all jockeys will wear black armbands.
All of us here at SportsInsider would like to share our condolences to the British Royal Family upon the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip. May he rest in peace.
At the time of publication, Ross Everett has a long position in ENT and MGM.