Total wagering on U.S. races increased for the fourth consecutive year
and exceeded $11 billion for the first time since 2010, according to year-end Thoroughbred
economic indicators released by Equibase.
The total amount wagered in 2018, which includes worldwide commingled wagering, increased 3.3 percent from the previous year, hitting $11,265,519563, up from $10,906,103,251 in 2017. U.S. purses increased 3.52 percent, totaling $1,117,727,943 in 2018 compared to 2017’s $1,079,738,209.
Average wagering per race day and average purses per race day were also up. The former saw a 6.58 percent increase and grew to over $2,541,859 from $2,384,890. The latter increased 6.81 percent in 2018, averaging $252,195 compared to $236,112.
There was a decrease in U.S. race days, the number of races, the number of starts and average field size. Race days decreased 3.08 percent, dropping to 4,432 from 4,573, and the number of races decreased 2.77 percent, with 36,586 races in 2018 compared to 37,628 the year before. Starts were down 3.77 percent. Thoroughbreds started 279,774 times in the U.S. in 2018, while 290,745 started in 2017. Average field size decreased 1.03 percent, dropping to 7.65 from 7.73.
The number of U.S. race days, races and starts increased in December 2018 from December 2017 by 6.18, 6.7 and 3.5 percent, respectively, but the average field size was down 3 percent.
“Boosted by a growing economy, a second Triple Crown winner, continued growth of racing’s big days and a full year operating under the new tax withholding and reporting regulations, 2018 proved to be a strong year for horse racing” said Alex Waldrop, President & CEO of the NTRA. “It is worth noting that total handle topped $11 billion for first time since 2010 and at 3.3%, growth in handle was the largest since 2000. Perhaps most intriguing were the per race day increases of 6.58% in handle and 6.81% in purses despite fewer races and race days.”