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Irish horse racing suffers drops in betting, attendance and race entries
25 July 2018

Irish horse racing has suffered major drops in betting as well as falls in attendance and race entries, a newly published report has revealed. Horse Racing Ireland's "Six-Month Statistics 2018" shows that attendance at race meetings fell by 2.3% in the first half of 2018 (519,425 to 507,337), with attendance down by a massive 30 per cent in March. Average attendance at races was also down.

Betting on horse racing has also seen a huge drop. According to figures in the HRI report:

- Total Tote betting fell sharply by a third (from €48m to 32m)
- The decline in off-course tote (Irish pools) has been even more severe - it is down 37% from €40.8m to €25.6m
- On-course tote is also down, dropping by nearly 14% from €4.3m to €3.7m
- On-course bookmaker betting is down 11.5% from €29.5m to €26.1m
- Total on-course betting has fallen 10.7% from €33.8m to €30.2m

On RTE Radio's "Morning Ireland" show on Friday, the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland was questioned about the figures.

Programme presenter Bryan Dobson stated: "The decline in betting - obviously there's a lot of concern about people who have gambling addiction - many thousands of people in this country - the betting figures are down pretty well across the board."

HRI's Brian Kavanagh claimed the drop was as a result of people betting online instead of at tracks, saying "that is a is an area [where] there has been some concern for a number of years."

The HRI is also pointing to Israeli gambling restrictions as having negatively affected betting, saying "legislative changes in Israel restricting gambling has had a serious impact on the Tote’s overall turnover."

The HRI CEO blamed winter weather for the decrease in attendance. When it was pointed out to him that just four races had been cancelled, he said that rescheduled races attract less people.

Perhaps another factor causing decreases in race attendance is the growing awareness about the suffering and deaths of horses.

There was disgust after it emerged - following a Dail Question from Clare Daly TD - that 779 horses have been killed at races around Ireland in the past six years. That includes 116 horse deaths since the start of 2017. The sickening Horse Racing Ireland statistics show that out of the 779 fatalities, 562 occurred at racecourses and 217 at point-to-points (races organised by foxhunts).

There is also mounting concern at the number of Irish horses dying at racecourses around the UK after suffering horrific injuries such as broken legs and necks. So far this year, over 50 Irish horses have lost their lives at UK races - in 2017, at least 83 Irish horses died. For more information, see

But it's not just betting and attendance that have been hit. Also down are the number of races, runners and horses in training.

- Total horses-in-training - down 1.3% from 7,057 to 6,960
- Average Field Sizes - down 5.2% from 11.5 to 10.9
- The number of races - down from 1,182 to 1,180
- The number of national hunt races - down 3.8% from 673 to 648
- Race entries - down over 4% from 26,828 to 25,687
- Flat race entries - down from 11,435 to 11,372
- National hunt entries - down 7% from 15,393 to 14,315
- Total runners - down 5.7% from 13,627 to 12,850
- Flat runners - down from 5,714 to 5,671
- National hunt runners - down over 9% from 7,913 to 7,179
- Individual runners - down nearly 4% from 4,971 to 4,775
- Flat average field size - down 4.5% from 11.2 to 10.7
- National hunt average field size - down 5.9% from 11.8 to 11.1

One thing not going down is prize money for race winners. That's up from €27.7 million to €28.9 million. Horse Racing Ireland can well afford to boost prize money, given that it received €64 million of taxpayers' money for 2018, via the Horse and Greyhound Fund. Since 2001, the government has handed out €900 million to horse racing. As previously highlighted by ICABS, much of this money ends up in the hands of wealthy horse owners in the form of prize money.

Horse Racing Ireland says “the level of prize money is a significant factor in attracting people into horse ownership." Its stats show a rise of 70 new owners in the first six months of 2018 compared to last year and just 30 more "active owners". New syndicates have increased by 38 to 125.

The series of drops recorded by Horse Racing Ireland could prove to be the least of the industry's worries. There may be a lot more trouble ahead as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

“Brexit continues to be a huge source of concern for our industry," HRI admits in its report. "There are issues around movement of animals between Ireland and Britain – and movement north-south within Ireland – as well as the threat of tariffs and trade barriers. All of this is in sharp focus for the industry in Ireland because we are a long-established exporting country for horses, 80% of which go to Britain."

Read the Horse Racing Ireland report at
See the table of statistics


Horse racing has received €900 Million of taxpayers' money since 2001, including €64 million in funding for 2017 and another €64 million for 2018. The government's squandering of scarce public money on this gambling industry is particularly deplorable at a time when our country's health and housing is in crisis and so many worthy causes are crying out for funds. Urge Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to end the funding.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar
Government Buildings,
Upper Merrion St, Dublin 2
Telephone: +353 (0)1-6194020
Tweet to: @campaignforLeo
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