Bookmakers have Plan B but hope for swift return for British racing
Betting operators said on Thursday they hoped the equine flu outbreak would not cause a prolonged blackout for British racing but that they had alternative products to mitigate the impact.
Bookmaker share prices fell on the back of the news, which was compounded by stricter regulations on online gambling announced by the Gambling Commission.
William Hill's director of retail Nicola Frampton said the bookmaker supported the BHA's actions and hoped they prevented a wider outbreak.
Frampton added: "Of course we do not want a more extended period without racing but the BHA must act in the interests of equine welfare.
"William Hill is fully prepared for any cancellations as we have successfully diversified our products over a number of years to provide customers with products that sit alongside British racing as well as providing an alternative during periods of cancellations."
Those alternatives include racing from Ireland along with international horseracing, greyhound racing and virtual racing.
Frampton went on: "All in all we are very well placed to handle this unfortunate situation."
Betfred's head of media and communications Mark Pearson said: "Whilst obviously affecting business we fully support the BHA's swift action in order to isolate and contain the recent outbreak."
He said: "There's always an impact when you lose UK racing for whatever reason. This is a time when every year racing accepts it is going to lose race meetings because of the weather.
"In terms of losing the day for reasons other than weather it will have an impact, but this is much more about the welfare of the racehorses and the BHA taking its action.
"There is plenty on in our shops today supporting UK racing. Most of this is what we'd have normally so for customers who are coming into our shops – and to some extent online as well – they have got other things they can have a flutter on."
At close of trading on Thursday William Hill shares were down 2.6 per cent at 179.60p, shares in Ladbrokes and Coral's parent company GVC Holdings were down 3.74 per cent at 657p and Paddy Power Betfair's share price had dropped 2.52 per cent to 6,380p
Analysts at Goodbody Stockbrokers said: "While there would be some recycling into other products [international racing and other sports], given the importance of the product a prolonged period of horseracing cancellations would be negative for UK facing operators."
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