BUSINESS OUTLOOK FOR AMERICAN HORSE RACING IN 2020

How well the American horse racing enterprise performs in 2020 will depend largely on the overall economy, competition, and humane issues.

Economy

The macro environment is very favorable for the U. S. economy continuing its trajectory from 2019.  Here’s why:

The U. S. Federal Reserve and global central banks will keep interest rates low and will expand balance sheets, which is a liquidity tailwind for stocks and higher stock prices fuel the “wealth effect” that promotes consumer spending.  Moreover, there is massive fiscal stimulus from consumer and corporate tax cuts and government spending.  Corporate profits are at a record high level.

(Congress’ profligate deficit spending is a huge long-term problem but won’t affect the 2020 economy unless a heated job market leads to inflation. This would increase government borrowing costs and possibly cause the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.)

Consumer outlays account for 70% of U. S. Gross Domestic Product and consumers have the means to spend.  Unemployment is at record low levels, including for minorities, wages are at an 11-year high, household net worth is at a record high level, and debt-service is at a record low level. Moreover, the lowest-wage earners are seeing their incomes rise.

All of this bodes well for consumer spending on leisure and discretionary activities like betting on horse racing.

Competition

In the wake of the U. S. Supreme Court decision that legalized sports betting, at least 20 states and the District of Columbia permit sports betting and many others are considering it.  What effect sports betting has on pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing is not yet known with certainty.  The risk is that sports betting will cannibalize wagering on horse racing.  In addition to sports betting, six states have legalized online casinos.

Humane Issues

Horse racing in 2019 suffered considerably from adverse publicity, owing mainly to a rash of horse fatalities at Santa Anita Park in California.  The big unknown for racing is the extent to which negative publicity erodes fan support and bettor participation.  Will racing be able to reform itself to present a more humane appearance or will infighting stifle meaningful reform?

Conclusion

Economic conditions for racing are more favorable than they have been in many years.  On the other hand, the industry will not be able to capitalize on the opportunity if it does not take concrete steps to burnish its public persona and find a way to leverage the mushrooming popularity of sports betting by encouraging crossover wagering.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

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