British and US punters in total alignment
Punters in the UK and the US operate in diametrically opposite majority betting markets – fixed odds against pari-mutuel wagering – but their involvement in international racing is in total alignment, according to research revealed at the second Pan American Conference in Washington on Thursday.
Polls conducted by trade media in the respective countries – Racing Post in the UK and Daily Racing Form in the US – showed that around 50 per cent of respondents had recently placed a bet on racing from an overseas jurisdiction.
In the UK’s case, the figure was 47 per cent for bets in the previous three months; in the US the proportion over a year was exactly half.
Drilling down even deeper, among those questioned by the Racing Post, 4.3 per cent said they never placed a bet on international racing, while three-quarters did so at least a few times a year, and more than 15 per cent of those who bet on overseas events were involved most weeks.
Reflecting on the findings, Racing Post chief executive and editor-in-chief Alan Byrne said: “Twenty years ago the only time a UK punter bet on an overseas race would be when we had a runner abroad.
"Times have changed, and a leading UK bookmaker told me recently that eight per cent of his turnover is now on international racing, which is a significant number.
“It proves that the right product at the right time draws an audience. The big question is how to get the levels of engagement increased.”
Answering his own observation, Byrne pointed to several positive factors – racing from the right time zone, a quality, well-regulated product that customers felt they could trust, good production values on TV pictures, the right data packages and guidance and insight from a trusted, independent source such as the Racing Post and DRF.
However, he added: “The biggest obstacle is the lack of familiarity with the international product and the local racing scene, plus language differences and variations in form presentation.
“Another clear benefit would be more uniformity in the rules of the race, particularly on the subject of riding offences.
“We need to make the racing product as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. At times it seems like we’re asking people to sit an exam, but it’s not enough to just provide pictures and the racecards, and hope for the best. Good marketing is essential.”
DRF chairman and CEO John Hartig revealed that his organisation’s poll showed that 39 per cent of US punters who bet on international events did so on UK racing, compared with 33 per cent for Australian racing, 20 per cent for Hong Kong and 14 per cent for French.
He added: “We also found that the figures were higher for high-end bettors, 60 per cent of whom wager on international races, and 20 per cent wager $10,000 a year.
"Also, the greater the access the more folks will wager. It doesn’t cannibalise betting on US racing; it actually adds to it.”