SBC News Cheltenham Festival: a roaring success or room for improvement?

Cheltenham Festival: a roaring success or room for improvement?

Cheltenham Festival is arguably one of the biggest events in the betting calendar. With 200,000+ bettors descending on the racecourse over a five day period, and even more watching the racing unfold on TV, is it an attractive proposition for sports betting companies?

Conleth Byrne, Product Director at SIS, and Alex Beecham, Managing Director of Checkd Media, gave SBC News a run-down on activity during the Cheltenham Festival.

SBC: Did the Cheltenham Festival live up to your expectations? 

CB: It certainly did. As ever, it was very well-organised, and the racing was of the highest quality, providing a number of surprises as well as excellent performances from well-fancied horses. With a very well-presented course in spite of some adverse weather conditions, we couldn’t have asked for much more.

AB: The Festival was a real success story for Checkd Media, setting records in terms of revenue and users and delivery for our partners. In a similar way to operators, we start planning for Cheltenham months in advance on the affiliate side as well. This meant we came into the festival with everyone aligned across the business to hit our core KPIs. 

SBC: Do you think increased affordability checks affected betting activity, at the course and online?

AB: I’m sure they will have impacted online users but on the affiliate side of the industry, it’s difficult to see an immediate impact. There are other factors that will also affect betting behaviours, one of which, naturally, is today’s difficult economic climate.

CB: In terms of online betting, it certainly had an impact, though it’s difficult to say with on-course volumes. What is clear is the British Horseracing Authority’s position that it would ideally like to see the gambling review white paper published as quickly as possible.

Removing the current uncertainty, which is detrimental to the whole racing ecosystem, would be highly beneficial, particularly with Aintree and the Grand National meeting on the horizon.

SBC: To what extent is the Festival an attractive betting proposition for operators outside the UK?

AB: It’s very much a UK and Irish focus for operators, with very little media coverage in other racing betting regions such as Australia, for example. It would be great to see the Festival picking up more media coverage and becoming a significant betting proposition in other territories in the future, but it remains to be seen whether that is a realistic hope or not. 

CB: Cheltenham remains incredibly popular across the UK and Ireland, just as the big meets in France and Italy attract significant interest in those countries. The engagement overseas continues to grow, and an important aspect will be the provision of an increased range of betting markets that appeal to casual sports fans who may not be well-versed in the intricacies of past performances, breeding, and the like.

SBC: Attendance numbers were down at this year’s Festival. What needs to be done to get the figures back up for next year?

CB: The numbers may have been down, but in my view, they were still strong, so I am not sure there is a big concern here. This year, we had difficulties with train and teacher strikes which may have put some people off. One obvious issue, if there is one, is the price of tickets.

The cost does not lend itself to attending on multiple days, and with the cost-of-living crisis, perhaps people who would typically go for two, three, or four days are now cutting back by a day or two. Possibly discounts could be offered when purchasing across multiple days.

AB: I think adapting to the current climate and looking to offer more value for punters, both on entry prices and the cost of food and beverages is a must. Everything is continuing to increase in price which is making it difficult for some racing fans to afford the live experience. More media coverage and engagement with the younger racing audience is a must as well and needs special focus. 

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