02/15/2008 8:15PM

Some Global Perspective


I tagged the Saturday newspaper column with a little item about betting around the world, gleaned from 2006 worldwide statistics in the newly-released Jockey Club Fact Book. My factlet was that even though the United States ranks first among all nations in the number of Thoroughbred races run each year, and third in total betting handle, when it comes to handle-per-race the U.S. ranks only 11th among the 12 nations that handle at least $1 billion a year in racing bets. (South Africa, which ran 3,883 races in 2006, is probably a 13th, but the Jockey Club was unable to obtain handle figures from that nation.)

The table below reiterates that finding, and also adds purses to the mix. Note that these purse totals do not include owner and breeder premiums, which is why the U.S. purse total of $937 million is lower than the gross purse total of $1.12 billion published elsewhere in the Fact Book:

These results suggest three obvious conclusions:

1. We run way too many races in this country, and less product would probably not mean a decrease in total betting or purses, given the evidence elsewhere.

2. Though American racehorse owners constantly complain about not getting a sufficient return on investment, in comparison to other countries, we do a pretty efficient job of directing betting commissions back to owners through purses. If British purses were our 6 percent of handle, rather than their current 1 percent, the average British purse would be over $130,000, even bigger than Hong Kong's. The difference is our tote system and simulcasting contracts, as opposed to the prevalence of bookmakers in Britain, which return a far smaller slice to the industry.

3. If you add population to the equation, you can get either very depressed about how thin racing's reach is in this country or, if you're the half-full type, see enormous potential for expanding that reach. Here's the list of those same 12 countries ranked by parimutuel handle per resident:

Chris More than 1 year ago
Richp, the same exacta concept applies to the US economy. Lower taxes, people spend more, and the economy grows! Tax revenues increase also. Unfortunately, we have politicians who are not smart enough to understand this concept. So what do they do....raise taxes which results in less tax revenue!
Bob More than 1 year ago
I am laughing out loud watchtower7 at the phrase, 6 weeks a year anually, chuckle chuckle. Thanks for the laugh. Oh by the way Keeneland has two meets a year.
Dave More than 1 year ago
Steve-did you overlook your neighbours to the north? With thoroughbred tracks in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Fort Erie and Toronto-we should have at least made your list in terms of races run. Our purses would lag but with the Canadian dollar trading above par with the US greenback, you might see more American outfits come to Woodbine this summer.
gofor broke More than 1 year ago
My mistake. I meant Friday and Saturday nights. Yonkers was packed too. Every floor was open, and they had windows open at the far turn on ground level. Great days. But this era is better. The one change I would like in NYC is to have Gulfstream's full card on channel 73, while the inner track is on 71. But this system is still much better, having the option of going there, or watching at home. I prefer home. I didn't have that option in the old days.
RichP More than 1 year ago
A lot of the problem with the racing in the US is the takeout. I believe Australia for instance has only a 5% takeout. I think racing would be a hell of a lot more popular with a takeout like Australia's. Every time they drop the takout in NY, the handle increases, and the contribution to the state goes up. The increased churn means more tax dollars. This has been proven over and over again. But every time the decrease in takeout is set to expire,they (legislature) raise the takeout % because they can't afford it. The handle goes down less money for the state. They they try to raise it again, and the handle goes down again. What a bunch of morons. It's a proven fact that if you redcuce the takeout within reason, the state makes more money. But common sense is something that's in short supply in Albany.
mlnj More than 1 year ago
Rossevelt was never "packed" on Sunday night. I cannot even recall Sunday racing there.
watchtower7 More than 1 year ago
If Keeneland had to depend on racing dates to support itself its highly probable they would have more than 6 weeks a year annually. Lol.
george quinn More than 1 year ago
This comment is for watchtower 7, As soon as you made the comment that keeneland does not care about the racing, your credibility ended. Nothing could be further from the truth. If not for any other reason, if they did not race there would be no sales. Not to mention the job that Nick Nicholson the President of Keeneland does. THINK before you write watchtower 7 george in lexington ky
OaktownABQ More than 1 year ago
Some tracks, like Fairmount Park and those in Ohio and Texas, are cutting their dates out of necessity. Of course, these tracks will increase their dates if they get slots -- but that's another topic for another day!
Wendy More than 1 year ago
Interesting stats. I believe the racing industry in the US could take a lesson or two from golf. Yes, golf... more specifically the LPGA tour. They had reached a point of market saturation. The LPGA could not get sponsors,courses, or many fans for their events. The plan, make their product more valuable by shortening their season and becoming more boutique. They changed many things about their product, however, the biggest factor was the "less is more" philosophy. These changes, made over the past 8 yrs or so, has made a dramatic difference and improved the health of the LPGA tour. Unfortunately, racing does not have a national body overseeing it. Not much will change until they do.