Some UK Betting Pools for This Weekend’s Grand National Could Be Illegal


This weekend is the Grand National and one of the most highly-anticipated horse races in the UK. It’s also a popular target for sports bettors; however, some betting pools may inadvertently operate illegally.

Grand National
Grand National
Jockeys participate in the Grand National race at Aintree. This year will see the return of live attendance and increased betting. (Image: Racing Post)

The Grand National always draws a huge crowd. It’s been a standard fixture in the horse racing world since its first run at Aintree in 1839. Apart from a few years it had to relocate to the Gatwick Racecourse during World War I, Aintree has always been its home.

Last year, the Grand National race set a sports betting record for an online event in the UK, beating even soccer’s World Cup. In addition to official sportsbook lines, businesses routinely create betting pools on the race, as well. However, unbeknownst to them, they might be breaking the law.

Betting Pools Walk a Thin Line

There’s nothing wrong with setting up friendly sports wagers among friends and co-workers. It’s a way to establish camaraderie and offer a distraction from the daily drama and stress. Attorney Richard Bradley of the Poppleston Allen law firm, as cited by Belfast Live, warns that the betting pools may be illegal according to the strict letter of the UK’s betting laws.

The law firm points out that UK gambling laws provide a little flexibility when it comes to sports betting. They offer the ability for companies to offer a “work lottery,” but there’s a caveat. These types of betting pools are authorized in only a single company office.

In other words, all employees who participate in the pool must work in the same office. This means that employees working remotely cannot legally join a betting pool established, for example, in the headquarters of the company for which they work.

Remote and work-from-home positions became significantly more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies learned that operational integrity was possible through the new model, which has led to remote offices becoming more common.

Now, around 16% of the global workforce operates remotely, according to Owl Labs, and the number is growing. The compound annual growth rate is currently around 9.7%.

In addition to the requirement that employees be part of a single office, there is another restriction that makes cross-location betting pools in the UK illegal. The UK Gambling Commission also states that companies cannot sell tickets over the phone or the Internet – only in person.

Therefore, the only option is for employees to participate in person in the office. Failure to adhere to the rules would “technically” lead to the individuals involved taking part in illegal gambling, the law firm asserts.

Additional Tips for Grand National Betting Pools

Bradley, an expert in gambling law, provided additional tips for those creating betting pools on the Grand National if they want to stay clear of the UKGC’s wrath. Participants can’t select their own horses – they have to be randomly chosen (such as by drawing the names out of a hat). Further, all tickets must have the same price.

The pools need to award prizes, not cash. The attorney points out that winners cannot collect cash, but organizers can take a cut for putting the contest together.

Promotion of the activity can only occur in the workplace – not on social media, through email, etc. Lastly, the contest must result in a winner. Rolling one contest into another is against the rules.

The Grand National race is this Saturday. Last year’s record-setting betting results arrived as the race was held without a live crowd because of COVID-19 restrictions. This year, spectators are returning, with estimates putting the crowd at around 75,000.

Snow Leopardess is the odds-on favorite to win, according to Sky Bet. This is due, in part, to her perfect record in her last three starts. However, she also missed two years due to injury and pregnancy. Any Second Now follows in the odds.

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