In the United Kingdom, concerns regarding the future integrity of the bookmaking industry’s horseracing ‘starting prices’ have reportedly been raised after sportsbetting behemoth, William Hill, announced that it had inked a deal to sell off its 82 track-side pitches.
80-year track-side presence:
According to reports from the Racing Post and The Guardian newspapers, the London-listed firm has been offering race-goers the chance to place track-side wagers for more than 80 years after launching its first such service at Northolt Park in 1933. But, this market has declined significantly over the past few years due to competition from online operators such as the peer-to-peer betting exchange at Betfair.com.
Future betting shop focus:
William Hill is now expected to earn up to £2.5 million ($3.2 million) from the sale to smaller rival, Racecourse Pitches Limited, with the giant operator’s Trading Director, Terry Pattinson, detailing that his firm will now be concentrating its efforts on maximizing returns from its 41-strong stable of on-course betting shops.
Pattinson to the Racing Post…
“With a William Hill betting shop now at 41 racecourses, we have reviewed whether our rails operation continues to make commercial sense. Our focus now is to provide on-course customers with a full retail experience on the racecourse so it makes sense to move away from our rails operation, hence, we have agreed a sale with Racecourse Pitches Limited. We wish them the best of luck with their new expanded operations.”
More pitches for Sid Hooper family:
For its part, London-headquartered Racecourse Pitches Limited offers horseracing aficionados the chance to place track-side wagers under its Sid Hooper brand with the firm’s Managing Director, John Hooper, reportedly declaring that he has been keen to expand for a while.
Hooper to the Racing Post…
“We have been looking for expansion opportunities for some time and we are thrilled to have acquired the William Hill on-course portfolio of pitches.”
‘Starting prices’ concerns:
However, The Guardian reported that the transaction has sparked worries about the long-term reliability and viability of the local bookmaking industry’s horseracing ‘starting prices,’ which are derived from the track-side betting rings. The newspaper explained that major meetings such as the annual Cheltenham Festival usually see around 200 operators contribute data to this pool but that minor events may only feature around six providers with William Hill often the sole major name.
This system reportedly dates back to the 19th century and plays an important role in the nation’s land-based sportsbetting market with cash ‘starting prices’ wagers commonplace. Furthermore, most online bookmakers purportedly offer a ‘best odds guaranteed’ scheme that will pay out at ‘starting prices’ odds if these are better.