This is Part 7 of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation's (TIF) series “Wagering Insecurity.”
Faced with remarkable competitive pressure from the rise of legal sports betting, horse racing is at a crossroads.
Confidence amongst horseplayers and horse owners is essential to the future sustainability of the sport. Efforts to improve the greater North American Thoroughbred industry will fall flat if its stakeholders fail to secure a foundation of integrity, along with increased transparency of the wagering business and its participants over time. Achieving this is growing increasingly difficult after the sport has neglected its core base–horseplayers–for decades.
“Wagering Insecurity” details some of that neglect, and the need to embrace serious reform. Fortunately, there are examples across the racing world to follow.
Transparent oversight of racing has been defunded over decades and customer protection remains weak. North American Thoroughbred racing in the 2020s is saddled with a regulatory infrastructure designed for a sport in the 1970s.
Racing has to change.
Ten years ago, Jockey Club research conducted by McKinsey showed that a minority of racing fans, just 46% of those surveyed, said that they would recommend the sport to others.
“Thoroughbred fans are almost twice as likely to recommend baseball (81%), football (73%), or basketball (77%) to others as they are to recommend Thoroughbred racing.”
There are many reasons for racing's waning appeal among its own fans but the gambling experience is certainly a key one.
Simply getting more eyes on racing is not going to be enough to sustain interest amongst future generations.
While many of racing's existing American customers have long been accustomed to a sport with substandard, haphazard and insufficient oversight, the next generation might not be as forgiving. A 2019 piece by Julie Arbit, Global Senior Vice President, Insights at VICE Media Group, highlighted this burgeoning need among Generation Z, whose oldest members are now in their mid-20s.
“Gen Z is coming of age in a world of infinite choice, and this affects everything from how they define themselves to how they love and how they buy..”
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