Vegas bookie: Future of horse racing faces tough odds – 05-09-2011
The liveliness and excitement that pervades sportsbooks cannot be replicated anywhere except Churchill Downs itself and inevitably prompts the question: how can a sport perceived to be in the twilight of its popularity create such a galvanizing effect across our city on the first Saturday every May? Horse racing is officially on the endangered species list as a sustainable form of Las Vegas casino gambling in its current form. This isn’t earth-shattering news to any industry insider – it’s just a fact. Over the last 10 years pari-mutuel revenue has declined precipitously on the Las Vegas strip from $46.6M in 2001 compared to only $26.7M in 2010. Drops in revenue are indicators of viable concerns but even more alarming is that there is no proposed change or hint of an industry rebound capable of sustaining organic growth in the years ahead. Outside of a few notable sports books that deserve commendation for their concerted effort to target the horse racing niche through generous customer reinvestment, books are seeing smaller and smaller race crowds with each passing year. Sure, the Derby and Breeders’ Cup will continue to attract healthy crowds with gaming volumes eight to 10 times larger than an average Saturday, but the focus has to be on making the sport more accessible and appealing on a daily basis. Customers aren’t inundated with horse information through mainstream media channels and with the proliferation of 24/7 sports coverage for every other sport, it makes sense that horse racing bears the brunt of a shift in wallet Having worked in the industry for years, I can say without empirical evidence or in depth quantitative studies that the average age of the horse betting contingent can see their AARP membership in the future more readily than they can remember their 30th birthday in the rearview mirror.
Posted on May 10, 2011