HRI remains positive despite continued decline in on-course betting
The decline in on-course betting in Ireland continued in 2017 while the Curragh’s redevelopment had a negative effect on overall attendance figures for the year, according to statistics released by Horse Racing Ireland.
Its report showed growth in many areas of the industry, including bloodstock sales, entries, runners and field sizes, while commercial sponsorship in the sport and prize-money increases also made for positive reading.
While Tote Ireland recorded growth on turnover for the seventh year in a row, the plight of on-course bookmakers was underlined by the fact that betting in the ring was down 5.9 per cent, to €61.6 million from €65.5m in 2016.
Shops on course also experienced decline, with betting down 4.8 per cent from €10.4m to €9.9m. Despite betting on the Tote being up 7.2 per cent from €96.8m to €103.8m, total on-course betting fell 6.2 per cent from €88.6m to €83.1m.
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh said: “The decline reflects the continuing challenge being experienced by all on-course operators.
“In 2017 Tote Ireland saw a seventh successive year of turnover growth. This growth was driven by betting into Irish pools [up 9.5 per cent] and international pools [up 11.1 per cent].”
The impact of racing at the Curragh during its redevelopment was felt in the overall attendance figures. Total attendance fell three per cent from 1.32m to 1.28m, while average attendance was down 2.8 per cent on 2016, from 3,692 to 3,589.
The Irish Derby attracted more than 25,000 people in 2015, but the official attendance fell below even the limited capacity of 6,000 last year, with just 5,412 people turning up to see Capri's victory.
Last year’s second leg of the Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh drew a crowd of just 5,370.
Kavanagh said: “The attendance figures reflect the reduced numbers at the Curragh, in particular the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and day two of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
“Attendances at the major jumps festivals in the first six months of 2017 were very strong, highlighted by Punchestown’s spring festival, which attracted a record attendance of 122,557.”
Prize-money went up by €4.3m, or 7.6 per cent, to €61.1m last year, with a further €2.2m budgeted for 2018. Sponsorship was also up last year, rising by three per cent from €4.8m to €4.94m.
Kavanagh said: “HRI remains committed to increasing prize-money to remain competitive with our European counterparts and to attract and retain racehorse owners in Ireland.
"To that end we increased minimum race values in 2017, with the increases flowing to races where most owners were competing."
On sponsorship, he added: “This upward trend is very encouraging and shows that confidence in horseracing’s appeal as an advertising and promotional vehicle for business is strong.”
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