West to reap €50m windfall as punters head for races
THE western economy is in line for a €50m-plus boost from Galway's seven-day racing festival which gets under way later today.
Up to 150,000 punters are expected to check in through the Ballybrit turnstiles between this evening's opening session and the last race on Sunday.
The massive crowds will once again put a smile on the faces of the bookmakers who rely on Galway Race Week for their busiest–and most lucrative–meeting of the year, with punters expected to gamble up to €14m.
Throughout the weekend the crowds were streaming into the City of the Tribes, with hotel rooms at a premium, even into Connemara.
Accommodation in Galway during the week will cost an average of €162 per night, according to hotel-search website Trivago.
The most expensive day to book during the racing carnival is, not surprisingly, Ladies Day on Thursday, when one night will cost an average of €211.
The most valuable National Hunt race to be run in Ireland this year, the €260,000 Galway Guinness Handicap Hurdle, will be the highlight on Ladies Day.
"All 52 races over the seven days of the festival will have a sponsor and the total prize fund will exceed €1.6m, which is quite an achievement in these challenging times," said race committee chairman, Terry Cunningham.
A report carried out in 2005 put a value of €60m on the worth of race week to the local economy.
Ticket sales are already up on last year, with racecourse management reporting corporate hospitality bookings up by about 30pc on 2012.