On-course betting trade could drop by 60 per cent from the 2007 figure
Drop in betting business on-course continues
THE difficulties being experienced by on-course bookmakers are dramatically highlighted in Horse Racing Ireland's figures for the first six months of the year, reflecting a further sharp drop in betting business, continuing a five-year trend.
Figures for the first half of the year show bookmaker turnover at €39.7m, down by 19 per cent on the same period in 2011. Bookmaker turnover on-track dropped by 52 per cent during the period 2007 to 2011 and it is feared this could exceed 60 per cent by the end of 2012, if the present trend continues.
Commenting on the figures Brian Kavanagh, HRI's chief executive, said: "The situation for on-course bookmakers is really serious and is reflected in the figures which confirm a continuing downward trend. In the absence of betting tax reform the on-course bookmaker business will continue to encounter difficulties.
"The recession is a factor, but racecourse bookmakers are also seriously up against it trying to compete with technology through mobile and online betting and they are having to operate at a serious tax disadvantage.
"The completion of the review of the industry commissioned by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the imminent legislation on taxation of betting will together be the most important developments for the funding and administration of Irish racing since the establishment of HRI in 2001.
"All parties have engaged in a comprehensive round of consultation which gives hope that a consensus on the way forward can be found."
Registrations of new owners fell by 11.2 per cent to 397, compared with 447 at the half-year stage in 2011 while the total horses-in-training figure fell by 6.7 per cent, down to 7,668 compared with 8,217.
Kavanagh continued: "The horses-in-training and new ownership figures are of real concern for the health of the broader industry and the prospects for employment in the sector over the coming years.
"It is a sign of the times we are in, but HRI will be committing additional resources to domestic ownership programmes to help reverse this trend and ensure we are ready to benefit from the recovery."
Other key areas, which had rallied at the same point last year, lost momentum. Overall Tote betting was down by 1.4 per cent at €24.5million.
However, the on-course Tote figures dropped by 23 per cent to €4.8m and average attendance at race meetings was down by 5.3 per cent at 3,139, although overall attendance was almost level with 2011 at 496,000.
Kavanagh added: "The drop in average attendance at race meetings can be largely attributed to the increased number of fixtures in the period and the unprecedented weather conditions endured by the Punchestown festival and other fixtures in the second quarter. This was also a major factor affecting the Tote's on-course performance."