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  Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Better bet on the net?
Betting shop
Some people do not like going into betting shops
Dot.com firms may be tumbling faster than runners in this year's Grand National but one online industry that has seen a boom in business is gambling.

Ever-improving technology means that it is now easier, quicker and safer than ever to wager online.

One click and your shirt is on the 1540 at Goodwood before you can say "They're under starter's orders".

Internet gambling has been steadily picking up followers since its inception a few years ago but recent technological advances mean this year a big boom is expected.

And bookmakers have been beefing up their bandwidth to tempt punters to their site.

New revenue stream

Internet betting has provided the bookmaking industry with a new source of income.

Even better for them is the fact that much of the business is coming from new customers, not simply betting shop regulars switching to the net.

"Internet betting is introducing a whole new bunch of people to betting who wouldn't normally go into a shop," says Ladbrokes' Andy Clifton.

"It will be very interesting to see what happens with this year's Derby and the internet," he adds.

A computer mouse
Heard the one about the mouse and the horse?

"Clearly we are a lot further advanced in terms of the number of customers and the speed of placing a bet online this year than last.

"The fact that the Derby is back on the BBC will also boost worldwide awareness of it, which can only be good for internet bookmakers."

The Epsom showpiece is estimated to rake in around 20m for bookmakers, second only to the Grand National.

The proportion of that figure coming from internet is small but it is growing.

Ladbrokes estimate that the internet currently provides around 5% of its turnover but this figure is up from less than 1% a year ago.

Furthermore, their research has shown that the internet punter tends to gamble six or seven times as much as the visitor to a high street bookies.

Global ambitions

Internet betting is a worldwide business - one-third of Ladbrokes' internet clients are based in the Far East.

Furthermore, the global profile of the Epsom Derby is sure to lure more customers from across the planet.


Around 2,400 internet accounts were opened in China in the 48 hours prior to the Grand National
David Hood of William Hill

It provides a welcome service for punters in countries where betting shops are illegal.

"Around 2,400 internet accounts were opened in China in the 48 hours prior to the Grand National," says David Hood of William Hill.

Thanks to the reach of the internet, the company now has clients in 220 different countries across the world.

The abolition of betting tax - due to happen next January - was welcomed by the bookmakers and should simplify their internet operations.

For while internet betting is tax-free because many firms have offshore operations, bookmakers are not allowed to advertise these sites in this country.

The big bookmakers currently have two sites - one for the UK and a sister site for worldwide use - which they will be able to merge when betting tax is done away with.

The Epsom Derby, like the Grand National, is a race which traditionally attracts the once-or-twice-a-year punter.

Bookmakers are hoping that the convenience of the internet will tempt them to dabble a lot more regularly.

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