While US sports betting continues its upward trend, US horse betting is experiencing the exact opposite. For the fifth straight month, the US horse betting handle has drastically declined.
New data from Equibase shows that the US horse betting handle declined by 5.21% in February. This comes after the handle declined by 7.19% to begin 2023.
Drastic decline in US horse betting comes after a positive month
Formed in 1991, Equibase provides Thoroughbred racetracks in North America with industry-owned racing information and statistics. According to Equibase figures, at this rate of decline, the total handle for 2023 is projected to be off by $750 million.
Handle decline since October 2022:
- October, down 4.93%
- November, down 4.47%
- December, down 7.52%
- January, down 7.19% (2023)
- February, down 5.21% (2023)
The five-month decline is a change of pace, considering in September 2022, the handle was up 2.68% and up 1.78% through Q3 2022.
No right answer for decline in horse betting
Maury Wolff, a former horseplayer who now studies betting trends, speculated that some tracks may have raised their host fees. “There is a possible explanation [for the decline], but you’ll never get to the bottom of it,” Wolff said.
“What are racetracks doing when it comes to signal fees? An unreal amount of the total amount bet is driven by [Elite Turf Club] and if there have been changes to signal fees, that would reduce handle.
Have signal fees gone up to the shops, and when you are talking about the shops you are talking about Elite? I would be very suspicious of that. They are so much the driver now. Anything that affects them is going to be an earthquake to the business. That strikes me as a possibility.”
Regardless of Wolff’s theories, he said they are educated guesses at best. “These are suspicions and suspicions are not facts,” he said.
Even though the horse racing industry is off to a rocky start, it has held its own since the legalization of sports betting in 2018. According to Thoroughbred Daily News, total handle was up by 11.8% in 2021 and down less than 1% in 2022.