Horse Racing Ireland sees on-course betting increase in 2019

28 January 2020

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the sports’ national governing body, has reported a 4.5% year-on-year rise in on-course betting turnover for 2019, despite seeing a decline in Tote wagering.

Total on-course betting turnover for the 12 months through to 31 December 2019, including the Tote, amounted to €78.9m (£66.8m/$88.8m), up from €75.5m in the previous year.

Growth was driven by an increase in turnover from betting rings, which climbed 6.6% year-on-year to €58.4m.

However, the HRI noted a decline in turnover from on-course Tote betting, with this falling by 0.9% to €10.6m, while turnover from on-course starting price (SP) shops also fell by 1.0% to €9.9m.

Total Tote betting turnover was also down by 13.0% from €69.2m in 2018 to €60.2m in the past year.

On-course betting was boosted by an increase in attendance, with this figure up 3.2% year-on-year from 1.27m to 1.32m, due in part to a busy Christmas period.

Elsewhere, prize money climbed 4% to €66.1m for the year, while the HRI said commercial sponsorship was also up by 17.3% to €6.1m. However, there was a slight decline in European Breeders Fund sponsorship, which declined 0.5% to €2.19m.

“Obviously increased attendances mean more potential customers for on-course bookmakers, but it is clear also that people see the on-course bookmakers as a part of the atmosphere of a day at the races and enjoy the service and interaction that goes along with having a bet with them and with the Tote at the races,” HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said.

“While changing habits and technological advances mean that the ring isn’t back to where it once was, this is a positive development.”

Kavanagh said 2019 was another challenging year for Tote Ireland, adding that the HRI will consider its options over the Tote moving forward.

“While on course turnover fell by just 1%, Tote betting overall was down 13% (or €9m), the majority of this accounted for by a significant dip in international money bet off-course into Irish pools,” Kavanagh said.

“The Board of Horse Racing Ireland received a full presentation on future options for Tote Ireland. All options are being considered and we will revert with a recommended position in the coming months. The decision will reflect what we believe is the best option for Irish racing.”

Kavanagh also noted that total off-course betting receipts collected by the Irish government climbed 81.6% in 2019, which reflected a 1% rise in the rate of betting tax.

“This means that, for the first time, the €95m collected in betting tax receipts significantly exceeded the Exchequer funding for horse racing,” Kavanagh said.