Racing News
Thursday 4th September 2014

UK Horse Racing in Dire Straits?

© Caroline Norris

Felix Younger

Depending on whom you ask, horse racing in the UK may be approaching its last furlong or it may be in great shape. It is difficult to tell for an outsider what the real situation is... Here are the two sides of the story.

According to bookmakers, betting on horse racing is fast becoming an “unsustainable” activity in the UK. The entity which issued this warning is no small-timer either: it is the UK’s second biggest bookmaker: Ladbrokes. The reasons behind the current slump in horse racing related betting are numerous. According to bookies, younger bettors are simply out of touch with racing and they prefer to wager their monies on football and other sports.

Gaming machines as well as online gambling and poker are apparently also directly competing for bettors’ funds, and so far, horse racing seems to lose out in this respect as well. Don’t ever play a single online poker hand without a decent rakeback deal working in your favor.

Despite the fact that blaming online poker and gambling for all the woes of competing industries is all too fashionable these days, Ladbrokes chief executive Richard Glynn squarely pointed the finger at football betting and betting on various other sports as the trend most detrimental for horse racing. He also sounded a stern warning, stating that if the current trends regarding the cost structures hold, and if the turn-around trends do the same, the product as it is will definitely become unsustainable in the near future.

Ladbrokes weren’t the only bookmaker expressing concern in regards to the sustainability for horse racing betting. According to Gala Coral, the profitability of the activity has been cut in half over the last 5 years, and the trend seemed to be gathering momentum still. Ladbrokes have produced some pretty alarming numbers as well to back up their alarmist claims.

Granted, industry insiders have admitted that if a major bookie pulled its support, horse racing would be faced with a major disaster, but is the situation really as dire as the bookies make it out to be?

According to The Jockey Club’s chief executive Simon Bazalgette though, the industry is in great shape as far as customers and audience are concerned, and with 6 million people hitting the tracks each year, horse racing is still the country’s second biggest spectator sport.

Despite the increasing attendance though, no one seems to dispute that the betting side of the industry is in trouble and the bookmakers aren’t disputing the fact that the industry as a whole is wealthier than ever. The problems are with the increasing taxes and levies which are directly hurting bookies as well as with the fact that despite the ever increasing levies, revenues generated by this tax are apparently firmly headed south.

Mathematician Betting