On-course bookie warns punters being turned off after 'worst day' in 15 years

James Lovell: endured a bad day at Ffos Las on Tuesday
James Lovell: endured a bad day at Ffos Las on Tuesday

On-course bookmaker James Lovell has blamed the impact of the cost-of-living crisis as the primary factor for his worst day of trading in 15 years.

Wales-based bookmaker Lovell described a day at Ffos Las on Tuesday as "dreadful" after taking £1,600 when £4,000 is usually required to break even.

Lovell said takings had fallen by around 30 per cent since the squeeze on racegoers' pockets, making him so concerned over the future of on-course trading that he and brother David were launching DragonBet, a new online firm.

He said falling field sizes and the decision by many racecourses, Ffos Las among them, to go cashless apart from for placing bets in the ring or on the Tote, were other turn-offs for racegoers.

Average crowds at British racecourses fell by 19.7 per cent in June, which followed a drop of 29 per cent in May.

'It was the lowest I’ve ever taken'

Lovell said: "It was the lowest I’ve ever taken. I took £1,600 and £600 of that was in three bets; it was dreadful.

"It was bad weather and they’ve had a lot of meetings there too, but it takes about £400 to be at a meeting, so we need to turnover about £4,000 before we pay ourselves to break level.

"In the last few months we’ve noticed the money and amount of bets is definitely going down. I think it’s reflective of two things: the wider cost of living at the moment and racing in general, with the field sizes, which appear to be stalling.

"Going cashless too alienates a lot of customers. I’d say the amount of bets we’re having is down 30 per cent."

Ffos Las: Wales-based bookmaker James Lovell described a recent day at the track as 'dreadful'
Ffos Las: Wales-based bookmaker James Lovell described a recent day at the track as 'dreadful'Credit: David Dew

Lovell, however, reported that average on-course stakes were up considerably, which he attributed to more high-stakes punters moving away from the online market due to affordability checks being implemented by firms.

He said: "Every bookmaker I’ve spoken to has said the number of bets has gone down significantly, but the average amount of money per bet is going up.

'This is due to affordability checks off course'

"In my own mind I think this is due to affordability checks off course. There may be a few higher-stakes punters going to the racecourse."

Falling field sizes have blighted the summer jumps programme but the Flat has not been immune, Yarmouth's meeting on Thursday attracting just 34 declarations for the seven-race card. Only five other Flat meetings since the start of 2018 have yielded fewer declared runners per race.

In comparison, the meeting at Ffos Las had healthy fields, its six races attracting more than 60 runners.

The bigger meetings have proved marginally more insulated from the issues facing racing, with the attendance across the five days at Goodwood last week down around five per cent from 2019.

Although Lovell did not trade at Goodwood, he said colleagues reported business to have held up and fellow trader Paul Gold described the week as "very good".

Gold said: "I go to four festivals – Cheltenham, Aintree, [Royal] Ascot and [Glorious] Goodwood – and it's always fourth in the league [for turnover]. However, this year results were better than normal and it all went quite smoothly. We had no complaints whatsoever."

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West Country correspondent

Published on inNews

Last updated