Irish Industry Declines Continued in 2010

Annual report shows favorable trends within attendance and auction sales.

While most of the key economic indicators within the Irish racing industry fell in 2010, the annual report from Horse Racing Ireland shows favorable trends within racecourse attendance and bloodstock sales.

According to HRI, on-course betting of €163.6 million represented a 10% decline from 2009; total prize money fell 13% to €46 million, and race sponsorship (excluding sale races) totaled €5 million, down 16.7%. When sale races were factored in, sponsorship fell 33.3% from €7.5 million to €5 million.

The report noted that €3.96 million of the drop in total value of flat races in 2010 (from €28.3 million to €22.8 million) was attributable to discontinuation of two Goffs Sales races worth a total of €3.2 million and “a significant reduction in the values of the five classics and Irish Champions Stakes.”

In other key statistical areas, total attendance at race fixtures fell 3.2% but average daily attendance was unchanged at 3,586 from 2009 to 2010; total number of horses in training declined by 4.3% from 11,638 to 11,136; total number of owners fell 8.6% from 5,107 in 2009 to 4,667 in 2010; and there was a 13.1% decline in new owners, from 894 to 776.

Within the realm of bloodstock sales, HRI reported public auction gross sales of €67.5 million in 2010, up slightly from €68 million the previous year.

HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh said the declines in on-course betting were due to the fall in disposal income on the part of punters and growth of online and off-shore betting. “Reduced prize money due to reduced funding has a negative knock-on effect throughout the industry,” he said. “2010 brought a realization by all parties that online and telephone betting must be levied on an equal basis with the (betting) shops to ensure a meaningful return to racing.” He said the Irish government has committed to introduce a levy on online and telephone betting operations tbat is more equal with the levy imposed on betting shops.

Kavanagh said downturns in the numbers of owners and horses in training have severely impacted racing industry employment. “These trends pose a continuing threat to the skills base which underpins Irish racing’s success.”