On the surface, top National Hockey League teams like the Calgary Flames, the New Jersey Devils, and the Los Angeles Kings may not appear to have much in common with thoroughbred race horses boasting names like The Last Samurai, The Young Master, and Fox Rock. But for sports fans in the United Kingdom however, these two wildly different groups of competitors are all synonymous with one particular past time: Sports betting.
Combined, both NHL and Grand National betting make up two of the UK’s most profitable sports for bookmakers, with only Premier League soccer – the UK’s national sport- and NFL fixtures generating more revenues.
As far as the Grand National is concerned, this should hardly come as any surprise to anyone who knows much about British Sport.
Britain’s Biggest Sporting Event
An annual tradition dating back all the way to 1839, the Grand National is a 4+ mile steeplechase held every year at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England.
The event, which this year takes place on Saturday, April 8th, 2017, attracts record crowds to Aintree, with over ten million Brits watching live on TV, and millions more watching around the world.
The event is so popular in fact, that it is widely regarded as the world’s most popular horse race, with those who triumph in the race becoming nationally celebrated heroes. For the latest Grand National Day winners click here, or read on to discover the truly eye-watering figure that represents just how much money is generated by betting on the Grand National each year.
That figure? Some £250 million, or almost $301 million USD.
That figure is made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that despite representing the amount of revenue generated by just a single, three-day horse racing event, it still ranks up there as the most profitable sports market, even compared to traditional sports whose seasons last months at a time.
A Minority Sport
What may be even more surprising however, is that the Grand National’s popularity as a betting market in the United Kingdom is rivalled by the NHL, a sports league which basically has no physical presence in Europe.
Indeed, for the longest time, ice hockey was -at best- a minority sport in the United Kingdom. Leagues and matches existed, with teams like the North West’s Manchester Storm earning a smattering of mainstream acclaim, but compared to national past times like Premier League soccer, cricket, and rugby union, hockey’s reputation was just about on a par with say, table tennis or handball.
In other words, the sport didn’t exactly enjoy the highest of profiles, whilst names like the aforementioned Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames, names synonymous with the sport here in the US, were practically unheard of back in the UK.
Then came the growth of on-demand media, 24/7 internet access, and streaming sports coverage, broadening the sport’s coverage ten fold and increasing its popularity practically overnight.
It didn’t take long before British sports fans could were beginning to appreciate not only the adrenaline and excitement to be experienced by watching live ice hockey, but also what a potentially lucrative market the sport could be for landing big payouts.
From there, it was only a matter of time before the NHL surpassed not only other US-based leagues like Major League Baseball,but even British pastimes such as test cricket, as one of the UK’s biggest sports-betting markets, putting it right up there on a par with Premier League soccer, and yes, even with the world’s most famous steeplechase.