The amount of money generated from the betting levy in 2019 amounted to €95 million, comfortably exceeding the amount of €67.2 million provided to horse racing and €12.8 million to Greyhound racing as part of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund for 2020.
Changes to the structure of betting tax and a rise in the standard rate paid by betting operators has seen this figure rise from €26 million in 2014.
The Fund was established in 2001 to provide certainty around the industry which is an important part of Ireland’s rural, tourism and export economies.
The figure emerged as part of Horse Racing Ireland’s release of annual industry statistics which also showed strong positive gains in the amount of commercial sponsorship coming into the sport, attendance at racing fixtures and the number of horse racing in Ireland and overseas under the Irish flag.
Sponsorship rose from €5.2 million to €6.1 million over the course of the year and 2020 has started strong with Paddy power confirmed as coming on board as new sponsors of the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown this weekend and Boylesports confirming a four-year extension to their partnership with the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.
“Commercial sponsorship and racecourse contributions to prizemoney continued in a strong upward trend,” said Horse racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh.
“Increases in 2016, 2017 and 2018 have been followed by a significant rise last year with commercial sponsorship and racecourse contributions to prizemoney up by 17.3 per cent from €5.2m to €6.1m.”
“One area of prizemoney policy which worked well in 2019 was the introduction of a new €500,000 fund between twenty Grade 2 and Grade 3 racecourses to help increase the value of their feature races. These increases enhanced the quality of feature race days at many of our smaller, vibrant racecourses around the country.”
Prizemoney rose as a result of these increases to a total sum of €66.06 million, maintaining Irish racing as competitive on a world stage as well as providing a greater chance of a financial return for those involved in ownership and throughout the industry.
600 new individual owners came on board last year and there were 216 additional registered syndicates. The total number of registered owners now stands at 4,061 with the number of horses in training here up 3 per cent to 8,949.
Another rise was in the number of those attending race meetings with a strong Christmas Festival season seeing the number nudge over 1.31 million, a lift of 3.2 per cent on 2018.
To put this in perspective it compares to the 802,466 who attended GAA Matches in the All Ireland Football and Hurling Championships in 2018.
“Horse racing generates a very significant return to the rural economy in Ireland and a positive international profile for our country,” added Kavanagh.
“None of this success could be achieved without the support provided by the Government.”
“2019 was a good year for Irish racing, however, the industry requires long-term certainty of funding to be able to plan strategically, not least in the context of the challenges provided by Brexit.”
“The increased revenue from betting tax provides the basis for such a long-term funding mechanism and Horse Racing Ireland will engage actively with the incoming Government in the coming month to achieve this objective.”
“Increasing ownership and participation is a strategic priority for Horse Racing Ireland and 2019 delivered healthy increases in the number of new and total owners and, consequently, the number of horses-in-training.”
“It was very positive to see 216 new syndicates registering with Horse Racing Ireland in 2019. Our analysis shows that an average syndicate has eight members and the syndicate model is a cost-effective and fun way for people to get involved in horse ownership.”
“Further analysis has shown that these 216 new syndicates have horses in training with 110 different trainers and it is encouraging that the increases we are seeing in racehorse ownership are being felt all over the country.”
“Attendances in 2019 were strong and the popularity of racing as a spectator sport was backed up by a 3.2% increase year-on-year. For the first time in a decade in 2019 Horse Racing Ireland returned with a television advertising campaign and that has been warmly received.”
“With the assistance of various Horse Racing Ireland capital development schemes, our racecourses have invested strongly in upgrading facilities. As well as the obvious contribution this makes to local economies, it has also served to make racecourses more modern and comfortable for racegoers. There remains much to do however, and Horse Racing Ireland will continue to work hard on ensuring the best possible customer experience. This year will see the completion of the roll-out of the Racecourse Free WiFi scheme.”
Image Credit: Horse Racing Ireland