BOOKMAKERS stand to keep as much as pounds 3m in unclaimed bets on the Grand National, the bookmaking chain Ladbrokes has revealed.
The world's most famous steeplechase was cancelled at Aintree on 3 April after two false starts caused the race to be declared void.
Ladbrokes estimates that 95 per cent of people have reclaimed their bets on the race. This leaves pounds 3m out of the total pounds 60m still in bookmakers' hands. But it admits the true figure could be higher.
About half of the people who bet on the Grand National are enjoying a once-a-year flutter or betting for the first time, the bookmaking firm Coral says. Many will not go back to place another bet and so are more likely to abandon their stakes.
Others placed stakes too small to be worth making a special trip to collect. Those who bet at William Hill have already passed the two-week collection deadline.
Bookmakers say they lost money on marketing and additional staff costs on National day. But Coral spent only about pounds 250,000 and William Hill pounds 150,000, almost certainly less than the total unclaimed bets.
Early reports following the cancellation indicated that the big bookmaking chains expected to make profits of pounds 2m each. Ladbrokes said, however, that the profit would have depended on the winning horse. 'When Red Rum won the Grand National three times it was big disappointment,' a spokesman said.
David Ashforth of the Sporting Life said the sum made or lost would depend whether punters ploughed their stakes back into other races. 'The bookmakers always talk about the National as a showpiece for their betting operation and hope to attract punters who wouldn't bet day to day,' he said.
'It is possible they may be tempted to bet more regularly once they've been into the upgraded betting shops. One theory is the fiasco may have put people off. Others think it attracted so much publicity it may have had a positive effect.'
Coincidentally or not, Ladbrokes reports increased interest this year in the Irish and Scottish Grand Nationals.
William Hill has pointed out that contrary to the report on page 7 of the Independent on Monday 19 April, anyone with a receipt relating to an unpaid Grand National wager can redeem it at any branch of the bookmakers. There is no time limit to reclaim the bets.