Glad to be back: bookmakers welcome racing's return
Bookmakers have welcomed the return of racing in Britain on Wednesday and admitted there had been a financial impact from the enforced break.
Betting operator share prices fell last week following the news the outbreak of equine flu would lead to a shutdown of the sport.
Welcoming the BHA's announcement of a risk-managed return, Ladbrokes Coral PR director Simon Clare said: "It's very good news. I think the BHA has handled the situation very well and communicated extremely effectively throughout the six days.
"The most important thing was to ensure the welfare issue could be properly assessed but at the same time, given the importance of keeping the show on the road, getting racing back up and running at the earliest opportunity.
"We hope we can get back to the build-up to Cheltenham and the spring festivals without a further hitch."
He added: "There's a financial cost when you lose six days of racing but it's the time of year when we do budget for a certain amount of weather impact, and actually we've had a less impacted winter than in a normal year. So to some extent this brief hitch can be offset against an average year of bad weather."
William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said the bookmaker had also felt the effects of the shutdown, although other products had mitigated the effect.
"We missed a fantastic weekend's racing and a lot of people who would have bet on course and off course didn't appear," he said. "That said, international racing last weekend was pretty good and our margins were excellent.
"We're excited quite a few of the big races are back on, so we're expecting to see a jump in turnover this weekend over the equivalent last year.
"Everyone is excited racing's back and we just have to see what's happened as it's been like a couple of days of the Beast from the East."
Betfred's Mark Pearson echoed those sentiments, saying: "We're delighted racing is back, especially with the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner."
Paddy Power Betfair and Ladbrokes Coral both said they would refund ante-post bets placed on horses who are not allowed to run due to the BHA's vaccination ruling.
Analysts at stockbrokers Goodbody said the BHA's announcement would be "greeted positively" by the betting industry.
They added: "Given weakness in share prices last week following the news on Thursday, stocks should react positively to this news."
Initially that was the case, though betting operator shares then fell back. By close of trading Hills' share price was down 1.85p to 175p, Paddy Power Betfair shares were down 35p to 6,330p, and shares in Ladbrokes Coral's parent company GVC Holdings had fallen 9p to 646p.
Get exclusive insight from the track and live tipping with Raceday Live - our up-to-the-minute service on racingpost.com and the Racing Post mobile app