Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans for England’s exit from novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown, including allowing betting shops to reopen alongside other non-essential retail from 12 April.
In the wake of the announcement, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) called for the Grand National to be delayed until after betting shops reopened to help maximise income from the event for land-based operators.
However, Dickon White, north west regional director for the Jockey Club, said that having consulted with stakeholders and considered the pros and cons of delaying the race, the event will take place on 10 April as originally planned.
“This has been a really difficult time for the retail and on-course betting industry and we very much hope that retail outlets will re-open on 12 April, but like so much in this pandemic, this is far from certain at this stage,” White said.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that timings for lifting restrictions in England are best case and not guaranteed, while already we know outlets will not be open in Scotland.
“With timings fluid and several downsides of delay, as well as some upsides that may or may not happen, there is not a solid enough basis to move one of the biggest racing fixtures in the calendar just six weeks out.
“Therefore, the three-day meeting will remain in its planned 8-10 April slot.”
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher hit out at the decision, describing it as a “disappointing blow” to the retail betting market.
“Briefly delaying the race could have provided a much-needed boost to racing, to the high street and to millions of punters who support this great sport,” Dugher said.
“Races are routinely rescheduled, including most recently because of bad weather. Of course there is always a risk with any decision, but I regret that a ‘can-do’ approach did not prevail in this instance.
“This decision will also surprise many people who understand the challenging financial climate racing currently faces.”