Those that thought that glory days of horse racing are as distant a memory as Seattle Slew’s trot to the triple crown have greatly underestimated the modern era of the sport of kings.
I mean it’s not like you go to the mall and see packs of teenagers sporting Pletcher and Baffert t-shirts with their baggy jeans, but horse racing is far from irrelevant. Sure, live gate and TV ratings are down at the track but the bottom line is strong.
After last month’s Breeder’s Cup turned in an astounding $142,700,099 on bets made both at the track and at off-track betting houses horse racing is alive and well and kicking some of its more traditional counterpart’s asses.
In 2006 racing generated revenue that topped out around $15.6 billion – yes that’s with a “B.” Tracks around
Even with all the money generated by people making daily NBA picks, that figure puts racing slightly ahead of The Association ($3 billion) and blew the doors off of the NHL that turned in a meager (if that term can be used when talking about billions) $2.3 billion. Those that make their weekly NFL picks ensure the league is the king of the mountain by far, but racing is no slouch.
So how has horse racing managed to stay near the top of the sports food chain despite live attendance being down and abysmal TV ratings? The simple answer is the internet. The internet has made betting on horse racing as easy as win-place-show horse racing has also undergone an image upgrade at the local level.
OTB houses have changed their imaged from smoky back-alley type establishments to multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facilities that are (dare I write it) family-friendly.
It is true. I personally have no problem taking my young daughter into our local OTB parlor. It’s clean, well-lit and I can get a burger, play some video games and I can make my horse racing picks, wager and collect all at the same place. In between races I can watch the ball game on one of the many huge television screens that aren’t filled with televised racing action. It’s like a Chili’s with a betting window.
Another factor that contributes to the longevity of racing is the hand-in-hand that racing-only television networks have played in the upgrade of OTB. Horse racing has become truly interactive, and although true racing fans are not going to the track they are still going to the races and that is how the racing networks fit in this money machine.
From the comfort of my own computer monitor or while I am chomping down a double-bacon cheeseburger I can watch the races as they happen in real-time, time zones be dammed. The future of horse racing is now and the future is as bright as ever.