What is the Cause in the Decline in Horse Racing’s Popularity in America? (Part 1)

Posted: July 31, 2015

Updated: July 31, 2015

Horse racing’s popularity is dwindling because of the decrease in punters.

Horse racing is the first sport that people gambled on in the United States. By 1610, seven race horses had arrived in Virginia as the aristocratic sport of horse racing took hold. All the common folk as well as upper stock went to horse races as they celebrated the benefit of living in a world free of British control. As trends in gambling popularity as well as US gambling laws came into effect, horse racing had thrived for several hundred years.

• In New York, horse racing made 20 percent of what it made in 1974
• Horse racing only attracts people to major events like the Triple Crown
• Internet sports books offer more variety of sports for punters to wager on

That time might be coming to an end. It appears as though horse racing is going back into the hands of the aristocracy. The racing of thoroughbreds has declined at a rate of about 7 to 10 percent annually since 2008. In New York, horse racing made 20 percent of what it made in 1974. There are many factors which may have directly or indirectly affected horse racing’s popularity in the United States.

Gamblers with other betting options affect horse racing’s popularity

Founding Jamestown 1607

Settlers founding Jamestown in 1607 brought horses, in three years actual races were held

The most obvious reason for a lack in horse racing’s popularity is gambling competition. The gambler is at the heart of horse racing. The aristocracy may have owned the sport, but it was the punters that kept it in business. Nowadays, other forms of gambling such as slots and casinos offer simpler solutions for making quick money. The atmosphere in casinos is more lively, entertaining and more honest.

Horse racing was at its height during the mid 1960s. This was conveniently around the time state lotteries started to become legalized in the U.S. for the first time in over 40 years. Even though the odds weren’t as high, lotteries provided other easy ways to win without going to the track. With the advent of scratch cards, money then became easier and more frequent for those looking for games of chance without going to the track.

Horse racing has become a very minimal part of the overall gambling market whereas 40 years ago it was a majority of the market. Even racinos (those brilliant hybrids of race tracks and casinos) are taking in nearly twice as much money as pure horse tracks. Along with other sports like dog racing and jai-alai that work on a pari-mutuel system, horse racing might make as low as 3-5 percent of revenue in the gambling industry.

Let’s not overlook the “mother” of all gambling forces in the world today and that is the internet. Internet gambling, which personifies US gambling news, is exponential in its popularity and growth of revenue. The ability for punters to bet on many different sports including horse racing offers the most convenient means of gambling. In addition, the internet is connected to casino games which, as mentioned, cause even more distraction from horse racing.

Thistledown racino track Cleveland

A racino is a hybrid of racetracks and casinos

Since horse racing is one of the many avenues for gambling in the United States, the importance to affectively handicap gambling is crucial. People will simply not try to play if they don’t think they can get more than they wager. Slot machines and table games offer a lower takeout. Horse racing doesn’t offer a rebate to its punters so even the more skillful lack the desire to play.

Horse racing’s popularity and that of other individual sports are also declining

It’s important to note that the factors for horse racing’s popularity drop apply to other individualized sports in America. Although boxing is popular, bowling, track and field and tennis are practically non-existent. Boxing is very similar to horse racing in the fact that its state regulated. Not since the 1980’s have audiences had such a variety of great fighters to watch and gamble on.

Today, most of the boxing world is lackluster and only a few notable fighters in gambling news today such as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao can turn the heads of the populace towards boxing. As can be seen in championship title fights in boxing and Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, horse racing only tends to attract audiences to major events such as the Triple Crown.

The spectators who frequented racetracks in America 50-70 years ago were from a variety of backgrounds and class levels. Included in this were ethic groups who lived in cities. As the suburbs became more advantageous, as well as safer, ethnic groups started to move outside of these cities and went less to the racetrack. This was the case in several cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

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