According to figures released Wednesday by Equibase, $12,218,407,637 was wagered on horse racing in the U.S. in 2021. The figure marks the first time betting has topped $12 billion since 2009 when $12.315 billion was bet.
“Against an extraordinarily difficult backdrop, the resiliency of Thoroughbred racing was on full display in 2021, as we concluded the year with significant growth in purses and total handle of more than $12 billion, the highest since 2009,” NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Rooney said in a statement. “We thank our customers for their ongoing support, as their wagering dollars continue to fuel our industry. As we turn the page to 2022, we look forward to the beginning of a new era for U.S. Thoroughbred racing with the launch of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) and an even greater focus on equine safety and welfare and the integrity of America’s oldest sport.”
Wagering peaked in 2003 when $15.18 billion was bet.
Wagering was up 11.86% over 2020, when $10,922,936,290 was bet during a year in which the pandemic kept several tracks closed for parts of the year. A better comparison may be 2019, when $11,033,824,363 was wagered. The 2021-versus-2019 numbers show a 10.74% increase.
Equibase, the Thoroughbred industry’s official database for racing information, announced Oct. 22 the addition of result charts that include data collected from global positioning satellite systems.
“After many years of evaluating GPS to deliver expanded data, Equibase is pleased to be successfully leveraging this technology for racing,” said Sal Sinatra, president and chief operating officer for Equibase. “GPS technology provides comprehensive data for each horse during the entire running of a race, and we are excited to now be able to provide this rich data on the website.”
During the running of the race, the GPS system collects a comprehensive data set every half second for every horse in the race. The charts will enable users to see this data at the traditional points of call, as well as at one-sixteenth-mile intervals. In addition to traditional information such as lengths ahead and lengths behind, data such as each horse’s sectional and cumulative time, average speed, number of strides, average stride length, and average strides per second are included in each GPS chart.
Equibase, LLC released its year-end report on Economic Indicators in Thoroughbred Racing on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Equibase has been providing monthly economic indicators advisories, but this one is for the entire year.
Equibase has provided comparisons between 2019 and 2020 as a whole as well as comparisons between certain portions of 2019 and 2020. The average wagering per race day went up by 32.69% in 2020, which could be linked to more people participating in online wagering. As expected, there was on overall decline in U.S. races, race days, and starts due to a number of tracks having to shut down throughout the year due to COVID-19 safety measures.
An industry group focused on improving horse racing, especially for gamblers and owners, is calling on the industry’s data collector, Equibase, to share more information for free or at greatly reduced prices. In a White Paper issued March 11, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation said Equibase should consider the collection and distribution of racing data as a marketing expense and distribute it for free, or as open as possible. The White Paper argues that this approach would attract and retain gamblers while empowering owners to make more educated decisions.
TIF board member Tom Reynolds, an active handicapping tournament player who has become a horse owner through Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners after spending more than three decades as a sales and marketing executive for Pepsi-Cola North America, believes such an approach to racing’s data would help increase interest in ownership and wagering.