By Muvija M
(Reuters) -The Grand National was Britain's biggest ever online sports betting event as shop closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant punters had to go online or use mobile apps to bet on one of the annual highlights of the horseracing calendar.
Over 100 million pounds ($137.4 million) was bet on the race across the industry, according to an estimate on Monday from Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment
While a Flutter spokeswoman said this represented a better performance than in 2019, before last year's hiatus, Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes, and rival William Hill separately told Reuters that the total takings were lower than in previous years due to the coronavirus lockdown measures.
Entain, which also owns the Coral brand, said more than 150,000 customers visited its websites every minute during the race, which took place on Saturday in front of empty stands after a pandemic-led cancellation in 2020.
Rachael Blackmore won on Minella Times at odds of 11-1, becoming the first female jockey to triumph in the race, which began in 1839.
"This year's Grand National event saw record-breaking betting volumes for our UK brands and huge customer excitement in line with the thrilling outcome," Dominic Grounsell, who heads Sports Brands at Entain, said on Monday.
888, which is a pure online player, said that for 888Sport, the event was the "biggest race we have ever had, with three times the bets taken in 2019 from twice as many customers".
The race typically draws in bets from around 13 million people, roughly a third of adults in the UK, each year.
A compelling storyline should encourage some of those occasional gamblers to take a closer interest in the sport.
"The problem is that if we have a bad result we don't see the money coming back as for many it is their one bet of the year. This year was good and we did well considering we saw the first ever female winner," a William Hill spokesman said.
888 said the seven-figure pay-out on Minella Times was the biggest single selection pay-out on its new Sports platform, adding that Minella Times was the third most popular selection in the race.
"One lucky customer had a treble of Minella Times, Thyme Hill, and Happygolucky throughout the Aintree festival - turning £6.50 into over £1,000 at odds of 157/1," the company said.
The expertise in online gambling and sports betting that the bookmakers have in Britain, which is amongst the first major countries to regulate the market, has attracted American suitors as the United States opens up to sports betting.
($1 = 0.7276 pounds)
(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Keith Weir and Ken Ferris)