Online Poker Blamed for Decline in Horse Racing Interest

Published Saturday, February 02, 2013 -

A recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press brought the plight of horse racing into focus with the news article revealing the demise of the Manitoba Jockey Club. The MJC is caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place with the declining economic viability of horse racing and the immediate prospect the province will cut financial support it has provided to keep the horse racing industry solvent.

In Manitoba, the MJC and the horse-racing industry receive $10 million in government subsidies and tax rebates. This includes $6.5 million from Video Lottery Terminals at the track, a rebate of taxes charged on winnings, supplements for race purses and direct subsidies to breeders. The hard truth is that horse racing all over North America and Europe is struggling to maintain market share. The total "handle" for the total amount of money wagered on horses has declined in Canada between seven and nine per cent annually. In New York State, the handle is now at about 20 per cent of what it was almost fourty years ago. Horse racing's premier events such as the Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup still exhibit strong growth, but overall attendance at the track is steadily declining. Some critics are blaming the use of online venues as the reasoning behind the decline in interest suggesting that online poker and the use of the internet to bet on other sporting events has taken the wheel when it comes to the preferred gambling option.

People have come to associate horse racing with scandal and fixing where there have been many cases of tainted horse races. The Manitoba government has shifted its focus from funding what it sees as a losing proposition in horse racing to the launching of a new online casino with links to the other internet wagering sites in other Canadian provinces. The Sport of Kings has been holding its own for a long time but maybe the time has come to move on.

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