Betfair, Coral and Ladbrokes have been the bookmakers hit hardest of all by the Big Freeze that is showing no sign of loosening its icy grip on the UK.
The December figures from odds comparison site Oddschecker.com reveal that it is the bookmakers with major racing markets that have suffered the most from the continuing abandonments of meetings – including those on supposed all-weather tracks.
The strong lead in referral statistics Betfair enjoyed over the more football-focused Bet365 has been cut significantly, Ladbrokes – which had an impressive November – has fallen back behind William Hill, while Coral was overtaken by SkyBet, which doesn’t provide a Best Odds Guaranteed service.
“The gap at the top has shrunk to its smallest ever level,” said Oddschecker’s commercial manager Simon Miller. “Bet365 kept its market share static but Betfair saw its share slide by 1.2% and now only stand 0.4% ahead of Bet365. Betfair always perform strongly in months full of racing but with abandonments around, especially on Boxing Day, this blunted Betfair’s strongest weapon and saw it fall back.
“On the flip side, Skybet used this opportunity to jump above Coral for the first time since June. Relatively weak in racing without Best Odds Guaranteed, Skybet weren’t harmed as much as the others and its strength in football saw its market share rally. As abandonments continue into January, it will be interesting to see which bookmakers have come out on top in testing times.”
These are testing times indeed as last night saw the biggest delivery of white powder since Kate Moss’s last birthday party. And with the arctic weather arguably worse this month than last, the impact for January on the hardest-hit bookies is likely to be graver still – even if the racing abandonments are offset by the raft of postponements that have hit the football market in the last fortnight.
“Attracting racing customers in January has been more competitive than ever, but bookmakers who are competitive on markets such as specials, darts and golf could see their market share on Oddschecker increase,” added Miller.
Potentially worse news for the racing-focused bookmakers is the decision by the racing trainer Dandy Nicholls to take his horses out of the country for six weeks to race in the south of France.
As they aren’t getting any action here, Nicholls figures he might as well take his nags away from their shivering stables, treat them to a bit of sun and give them a run for few Euros against their cross-channel cousins.
“It will either prove to be a roaring success or our horses won’t simply measure up,” said Nicholls, who will be gone for six weeks. “But we thought we might as well give it a go – as the prize-money’s much better over there anyway.”
If Nicholls’ charges are successful then he could be onto a winner. And we might then see other stables following suit. And for the bookies, that’ll just be another mare.
Top 10 bookmakers on Oddschecker for December
1. Betfair (13.3%)
2. Bet365 (12.9%)
3. William Hill (9.6%)
4. Ladbrokes (9.5%)
5. Stan James (8.8%)
6. Paddy Power (8.7%)
7. Sky Bet (5.6%)
8. Coral (5.3%)
9. Betfred (4.3%)
10. Sportingbet (4.2)