Some metrics might suggest that interest in horse racing is flagging. However, interest in betting on horse races appears to be holding steady, although more data is necessary to confirm with more certainty whether that is the case.
The 2023 Preakness Stakes brought in a little under $102 million in wagers. That’s steady from last year’s total. At the same time, context suggests that online racebooks could be responsible for keeping that number competitive.
Bettors kept pace on Preakness in 2023
According to a news release from 1/ST Racing, which operates Pimlico Race Course in Maryland among others, the amount of money wagered on Saturday’s Preakness Stakes came to $101.7 million. Hayes Gardner of the Baltimore Sun says that total is “similar to last year’s total of $104 million and more than the five-year average from 2015-2019 of $94 million.”
National Treasure took the win as the betting second choice of 4-1. Kentucky Derby winner Mage had been the odds-on favorite at 8-5. They were two of just seven horses to compete in the 2023 Preakness after veterinarians advised the scratch of First Mission. First Mission had been the second choice.
For the horse racing industry, the amount of money bet on the race might be the highlight of the event. It followed a record sum wagered on the Kentucky Derby. That is great news for the racebooks considering betting activity on less notable races has actually seen a decline this year.
Other facets of the event did not go as the event organizers likely hoped. Of greatest importance, Saturday saw yet another horse fatality on a renowned day for the sport. A separate press release from 1/ST explains what happened.
“During the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico, the number one horse, Havnameltdown, sustained an injury and immediately received on-track medical attention from an expert team of veterinarians, led by Dr. Dionne Benson. during the subsequent evaluation, she [the lead veterinarian] observed a non-operable left fore fetlock injury. Due to the severity and prognosis of the injury, Dr. Benson and her counterparts made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Havnameltdown.”
While the break down did not occur to one of the seven horses actually running in the Preakness, it nonetheless continues the conversation around equine safety. It could also have put a damper on the day for attendees. There weren’t as many of those this year, though.
Attendance figures suggest online betting is pivotal
Gardner also pointed out that the attendance figures from this year’s Preakness could be a matter of concern for event organizers. According to Gardner, 65,000 people paid for admission to the venue between Friday and Saturday.
That is slightly up from 2022 but about 1/3 of the figure from 2019, Hayes wrote. If this is the new expectation for the Preakness moving forward, then keeping betting activity over the $100 million mark will increasingly rely on people wagering on the race from outside Pimlico.
Fortunately for the industry, online betting on horse races has never been more accessible. Many of the most popular online gambling companies in the United States have introduced dedicated apps like BetMGM Horse Racing, Caesars Racebook, DK Horse and FanDuel Racing.
Additionally, endemic brands like Churchill Downs’ Twinspires and TVG have made investments in their online products to compete. Horse racing is evolving along with the rest of society. That evolution could mean that the sport is more dependent on Internet betting than ever before.