Is Horse Racing at the point of no return?

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Despite the overly dramatic title, there is a very serious point to be made about the future of Horse Racing as a gambling market in the UK. Even bookies are starting to question its long-term viability. Sky Bet’s CEO, Richard Flint, only recently stated that racing faces “an unprecedented demographic challenge”. For those of us that do not speak the language of the CEO, this can essentially be translated as “we’re reconsidering the viability of promoting the sport from a business point of view”.

Now Sky Bet are a big player in the UK betting scene, and whilst we do not have further quotes that represent the rest of the industry, it’s a fairly safe bet that other bookmakers’ opinions do not drastically differ from those of Sky Bet.

Could this just be a bit of fear-mongering by the bookmakers, to put even more pressure on the likes of ITV to improve the accessibility of horse racing to multiple age groups? As we mentioned a couple of blogs ago, we know that the shift in TV coverage for UK horse racing from Channel 4 to ITV represents a clear move to revive the sport. However, statements like the one above from Sky Bet’s CEO seem to add even more importance to the event, indicating that it could be the industry’s last attempt to make horse racing a viable betting market for young adults.

The question is, does the CEO of Sky Bet have any figures to back up his arguments for the impending doom surrounding horse racing? Well, unfortunately, yes, he does. Speaking at an event in York, Richard Flint stated, “A quarter of our customers are under 25. Nearly all of their betting activity is via a mobile device. Even desktop computers are old-fashioned to them. Those customers are 17 times more likely to bet only on football than only on racing. Racing is the favourite sport of just 13% of these customers. That’s a third of the number of the over-55s.”

Very few will deny that the future of betting lies in mobile platforms in some shape or form and whilst football markets have fully embraced the mobile world, horse racing is yet to do the same, in part due to generally older participants.

So, as with so many of our blogs we find ourselves asking the question, should we be worried? To some extent, yes. Horse racing is a very lucrative market for us when it comes to Reload offers, and losing it would hurt our monthly profits as matched bettors. However, bookies are smart enough to know that simply letting horse racing die as a viable betting market would be terrible for business. It will ultimately be the bookmaker’s responsibility to work together with the racing industry in order to future-proof the sport. For us here at Heads&Heads, we hope they sort this out sooner rather than later, so we can continue to supply our members with lucrative horse racing offers far into the future.