HORSE RACING AS AN ECONOMIC FORCE IN NORTH AMERICA

How big is the North American horse racing enterprise?  That is a highly subjective question because each individual has his or her own perception of what constitutes “big.”  For example, a micro-business employing two or three people might think of another business with 500 employees as big.  Yet the conventional definition used by the U. S. Small Business Administration would classify a company with 500 or fewer employees as small.

In 2017, North American pari-mutuel handle was $11.6 billion.  On the bloodstock side of the industry, auction sales in 2017 were nearly $1 billion.  Thus the North American racing industry produced revenues of $12.6 billion annually not counting hard-to-estimate but consequential revenues from private transactions, such as stud fees, non-auction horse sales, trainer and jockey fees, and from suppliers like pari-mutuel machine manufacturers, racetrack concessionaires, horse-feed companies, and bloodstock agents.

To put the size of the North American horse racing into perspective, benchmarks are necessary in order to make meaningful comparisons.  Take several recent examples:

Casinos generated $76.6 billion of revenue in 2017 in the United States.

American movie theatre ticket sales were $11.1 billion in 2017.

In 2018, Cintas ranked 500th on the Fortune 500 list of largest U. S. companies (using the metric annual revenues to do the ranking) with revenue of $5.5 billion.

The Dallas Cowboys, the National Football League’s most valuable team, led the NFL in 2016 with revenue of over $840 million.  Next came the New England Patriots at approximately $575 million.

The American Gaming Association estimates that in 2017 $150 billion was bet—legally and illegally—on sports in the United States.  More objective experts put the number at somewhere around $67 billion per year.

While horse racing does not approach the magnitude of casinos and sports betting, it is certainly far from a cottage industry.  Racing is a significant employer, and way of life, at both the retail racetrack level and in agribusiness.  By the numbers, North American racetracks, account wagering providers, bloodstock-related businesses, suppliers, and tertiary firms account for billions of dollars in commercial transactions.

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