Two of the best-known betting brands, GVC’s Ladbrokes and Coral, are to vanish from race courses in the UK and Ireland.
GVC has announced that it has agreed to sell to on-course bookmaker Sid Hooper all 106 brand-owned pitches. The move means that the two brands will withdraw from on-course events entirely.
For decades, the brands have been fixtures on the rails at racecourses, but the value of the market has declined in recent years and GVC was already running the segment at a loss even before the downturn was exacerbated by current races conducted behind closed doors due to the pandemic of Covid-19.
Since March, the majority of on-course bookmakers have not been able to work, with only a minority returning to racecourses to take owners’ bets.
The trading director of GVC, Tom Ritzema, said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we are very sad to be calling time on Ladbrokes and Coral’s longstanding presence in the racecourse betting ring.
“GVC remains totally committed to horse racing, with a significant race sponsorship portfolio under the Ladbrokes and Coral brands, and we are the biggest single provider of betting revenues to the sport.
“A number of factors combined to lead us to conclude that a presence in the racecourse betting ring is no longer a strategic imperative for our two UK brands.
“The volume of business taken through the racecourse pitches is minuscule compared to the volumes generated in our off-course retail and digital businesses, and we no longer use the operation to hedge into the racecourse betting ring.
“As the racecourse operation is loss-making and no longer has a strategic purpose, we have regrettably reached the decision to sell our pitches and leave the ring.
“The current situation with Covid-19, and racing behind closed doors, expedited the decision but was not one of the factors behind it.
“Standing in the betting ring will always be a huge part of both Ladbrokes and Coral heritage and history, and we are immensely proud of that.
“However, the betting landscape has changed immeasurably in recent years, and we need to change with it. We would like to wish John Hooper the best of fortune with our pitches going forward.”
The decision by GVC would be a blow to the stature and hope of the flagging industry for the future.
A total of 17 staff members are confirmed to be negotiating the future of their jobs with John Hooper, who is trading under the name Sid Hooper.