There are few more globally popular sports than horse racing. Action on the track takes place in all four corners of the planet, with racing taking place every day in at least one location across the United Kingdom and USA.
Both nations rank horse racing betting events among their most popular, with the biggest events on the calendar grabbing the attention of those that don’t even watch any other race throughout the season.
But, just how popular is horse racing betting across the United Kingdom and United States in 2023? Is it as popular as betting on PC gaming tournaments?
Popularity In The UK
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The popularity of horse racing in the United Kingdom remains at an all-time high, with figures showing that it is among the most-watched sporting events annually throughout the season.
That is echoed by the fact that horse racing fans were found to be the most likely to bet on their favourite sport. The stats showed that 97.4% of people that watched racing would place a bet on the action. The growth of online bookmakers has seen the popularity of the sport continue to increase, with the sector being worth around £5.4 billion in 2019.
However, while the sector continues to expand, the amount of turnover on course has dropped between 2009 and 2019, with a growing number of fans opting to enjoy the racing on the television and placing bets on their mobile devices.
Popularity In The USA
According to TwinSpires, over 300 million fans watch some of the biggest races on the American calendar throughout the season, and the vast majority of those will place wagers. However, the big difference in popularity between the United States and UK stems from the fact that few visitors attend small midweek meeting in the US compared to the United Kingdom.
That is echoed by the fact that crowds at New York’s premier track at Belmont Park has dropped by 88% since 1978, while that number is significantly higher when assessing even smaller tracks such as Hawthorne and Los Alamitos. While the popularity of betting on the biggest races on the American calendar remains high, the same can’t be said of the lesser races, such as allowance optional claimers.
However, this is something that organizers are looking to address, as there are now fewer races on the American calendar, meaning that there will be more competitive affairs throughout the season. That is echoed by the fact that there was 33,453 races on the calendar last season compared to over 74,000 races being staged back in 1989.
Huge Races Excite Millions
The United Kingdom and USA both have standout events on the calendar throughout the season, and these are often the races that will gain attention from mainstream fans. They rank among the most lucrative for bookmakers. The most popular in the United States are centered around the Triple Crown races, made up by the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Meanwhile, the Breeders’ Cup is a hugely popular global betting event, with runners from the UK, Ireland, France, Australia and Japan are competing. The Kentucky Derby is the most popular annual betting event on the calendar, with a reported $179 million betted in the pari-mutuel pool in 2023. That was a considerable increase of 17% from the amount wagered in 2021.
In the United Kingdom, there are standout events throughout the season, ranging from flat races such as the Ascot Gold Cup and Epsom Derby, to the more followed National Hunt dates at locations such as Aintree and Cheltenham. The Grand National is the standout race on the calendar for millions, and it is a huge betting occasions.
Figures this year showed that over £150 million was wagered on the race, with an average of one in three British adults placing a bet on the world’s most famous jumps race. However, the biggest betting week of the year in the United Kingdom comes in the form of the Cheltenham Festival, where a reported £1 billion is spent on bets across the four-day meeting.
Will The Popularity Continue?
Horse racing certainly looks to be in a healthy position in 2023, with more wagers than ever being placed on some of the standout races on the calendar. The growth of the online sports betting scene has played a key role in the extended success that has been achieved, and the sector is only growing stronger, which means that the global success of horse racing looks set to continue for generations to come.