At the biggest events, such as the Cheltenham Festival, attendance figures have swelled in recent years. The same might not be true of smaller meetings, but Cheltenham and those like it, such as Royal Ascot, continue to attract large crowds.
That’s clearly a positive for the sport, but the Jockey Club’s directors don’t want oversaturation and underprepared venues to run the racing experience. That sentiment was communicated to the public in August 2022. Following record aggregate attendance at Cheltenham in 2022, the Jockey Club responded to complaints regarding waiting times at the racecourse. A statement issued to the press confirmed that daily attendance would be capped at 68,500 to “ease movement” and “enhance service times” at the venue.
Racing Remains Popular with Punters
The move isn’t a sign that interest in the festival, or racing in general, is waning. Horse betting online remains a growing industry both in the UK and around the world. The leading sportsbooks continue to provide comprehensive coverage of Cheltenham, as well as every other race in the UK and Ireland. That coverage includes betting odds, odds boost promotions, previews, stats and live video streams. These resources not only make racing easily accessible to the masses and, therefore, a mainstream sport, but they’re also contributing to the growth of online gambling in the UK.
As per the British government’s provisional figures, betting and gaming receipts totalled £1.6 billion for 2022 and into the start of 2023. That’s £164 million (11%) more revenue than the previous period. The continued growth of online betting and gaming contributed to these gains, but Jockey Club officials have also recognised the renewed interest in the live experience. That’s why a cap has been imposed on the Cheltenham Festival in 2023. Casual race-goers are the lifeblood of major events such as Cheltenham.
Organisers Need to Strike a Balance
Therefore, the organisers need to strike a balance between letting in as many people as possible and maintaining a high level of service. Indeed, for many visitors to Cheltenham, the Grand National, Royal Ascot or any other high-profile event, racing isn’t always the main attraction. A lot of casual visitors see racing as a form of entertainment, so a crowded venue where people can’t move around freely or make purchases in a timely manner isn’t enjoyable. That’s why the Jockey Club has implemented a cap and will continue to do so venues can ensure high levels of service.
The data shows that racing is just as popular as ever. Online betting sites continue to provide a variety of services to racing fans at both ends of the spectrum. This is leading to increased revenue for the racing sector and, in turn, the gambling industry as a whole. However, the sport isn’t just about the virtual experience. Racecourses are a vital part of the recipe for success, and only those that can deliver an all-round entertainment experience will survive. That latest measure by the Jockey Club is designed to ensure major events remain attractive for many years to come.