Over the years we’ve seen sponsorship of the Grand National change hands quite a few times. Seagram’s, Martell, John Smith’s and Crabbie’s have all taken up the sponsorship mantel at one point or another.
By 2017, Randox Health had taken over in a five-year deal. That caused its own share of controversy as Rose Paterson, Aintree’s Chairwoman, is married to an MP who also acts as a consultant for Randox Health. However, it didn’t stop the deal going through so it was more of a storm in a teacup.
But other than the big hitters of the Grand National, throughout the UK there are thousands of other races and sports that also need to be funded. Some of the smaller races are sponsored by individuals, who get to reap the benefits of a great day out.
Some of the race names they give are hilarious including the 18:20 at Newton Abbot on June 25th, 2019. That was called ‘David Chillery Continues Celebrating His Divorce Novices’ Handicap Chase’. Not only was it funny, but it was also a year on from his original sponsored race entitled ‘David Chillery Happy Days Celebrating His Divorce’. Clearly, he has a good sense of humour!
While some sponsors are just having a good time, there is a rather more difficult conversation to be had when sponsors are involved in gambling. Morally, it is easy to see why some would have an issue with the likes of Betway sponsoring the Queen Mother Chase at Cheltenham or that Betfair are the official betting partner of The Jockey Club.
However, realistically, the two industries are almost completely intertwined. It is virtually impossible to go to a racecourse in the UK and not place a bet. Even if it is only for pennies. That is, like it or not, half the fun of going. Just ask any of the 5.7million people who headed to the races in 2018. Or those whose jobs and livelihoods in the industry depend on it.
Of course, gambling and horse racing doesn’t just stop at the racecourse gates. Online betting on horse racing is worth a small fortune. In 2018, the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) in the UK was £14.5 billion. Of that, £2.5 billion was generated through betting via online casinos (like those found at https://www.casinoguide.co.uk/online-casinos-uk) and bookmakers, predominantly on football or horse racing. Incidentally, CasinoGuide also sponsored St Patrick’s Raceday, at Fontwell Park in Arundel back in 2017.
It’s easy to see the attraction of pairing up gambling sponsors with horse racing. The advertising, branding and subsequent bets far outweigh the cost. But is the industry reliance on bookmakers a good thing?
Well, like all subjective topics, it depends on whom you ask. The Horserace Levy Betting Board collects 10% of all bets placed on races. This money is then distributed throughout the industry. This helps to develop better racecourse facilities, increases prize money and improves equine care.
Conversely, if you ask a gambling addict if it’s a good match, it’s entirely possible they would say “no”. Particularly when you consider that the Gambling Commission confirmed, in 2017, that the number of ‘problem gambler’s had risen to 400K people with a further 2 million ‘at risk’ of developing a problem.
While there is no talk of ever banning gambling sponsorship in horse racing, it is an aspect of the industry that will continue to be monitored closely.