Horse Racing – The Sport of Kings Set to Keep the Money Flowing in Ireland

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The Irish horse racing industry is a cornerstone of the nation’s economy, as highlighted by a recent report commissioned by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and conducted by Deloitte.

The report offers a comprehensive analysis of the industry’s economic contribution to the nation through breeding, training, racing, betting and related activities.

The sector generated a whopping €2.46 billion for the Irish economy in 2022 through direct and stimulated expenditure – a 34% increase in revenue compared to 2016.

The report also emphasises the industry’s role in job creation. The sector supported a total of 30,350 jobs in 2022, reflecting a rise of 1,450 positions since 2016. 

The industry effectively became a vital source of income for many communities, with a significant increase in employment opportunities across every facet of the sector, including breeding farms, training facilities, racecourses and associated businesses.

Irish Horse Racing Maintains an Upward Trajectory

Further research published by Deloitte in 2023 reveals that Ireland’s thoroughbred horse racing industry maintained its upward trajectory from previous years.

The breeding sector takes centre stage as a massive economic driver, generating a whopping €819 million in revenue. 

The strong performance is further bolstered by Ireland’s reputation as a breeding powerhouse, with the country ranked as the second-largest territory for global public bloodstock sales.

While the industry creates wealth domestically, it also attracts significant foreign investment. Horse racing and breeding contribute over €550m annually in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

This impressive figure highlights the industry’s ability to attract international capital and boost the Irish economy.

Racegoers also play a vital role in the industry’s financial health. By spending both on and off the course, they contribute a significant €193m annually. 

Combine this with the €264m spent by owners on training and running their horses, and you have a recipe for economic stimulation across the country.

The Irish economy also loves a good festival, and attendance figures at racecourses paint a vibrant picture. Top-attended festivals attract a combined total of over half a million people, which translates to a significant boost for local businesses and tourism.

While the report highlights the industry’s current strength, it also acknowledges the importance of planning for the future, and HRI has a clear vision for continued growth.

Horse Racing Spurs the Irish Economy

Horse racing is a major economic driver for Ireland, and while the excitement of the races themselves is undeniable, the real impact goes far beyond the cheers of the crowd.

There are also thousands of people whose jobs rely on horse racing. A significant number of others also owe their livelihoods to the breeding operations.

With over 1.2 million people attending races annually, horse racing is one of Ireland’s most popular sports, second only to the Gaelic Games. 

This translates to a significant boost for the tourism industry, as racegoers travel and spend money in surrounding areas, creating a ripple effect that benefits local businesses.

The rise of online betting has also been a game-changer, not just for punters placing wagers on the top Irish betting apps, but for the economy as well. 

This sector creates jobs in technology and the gaming industry, while simultaneously generating additional tax revenue for the government.

HRI Targets a Lucrative Future

HRI recently unveiled its ambitious Strategic Plan for 2024-2028, outlining a roadmap for financial growth while addressing potential roadblocks to the industry’s long-term success.

The plan prioritises significant financial expansion. HRI aims to secure €92.4m in funding by 2028, exceeding the €76m allocated by the government this year. 

While it falls short of the previously envisioned €98m by 2024, the target reflects a commitment to bolstering the industry’s financial standing.

The plan also sets ambitious targets for race fixtures and overall revenue. HRI seeks to increase the number of racing events from 395 this year to 430 by 2028, aiming to generate €141.7m in annual revenue within the same timeframe.

Horse welfare remains a key focus. Despite a revised target of €80m in prize money by 2028 compared to the previously envisioned €90m by 2024, the plan prioritises animal wellbeing.  

HRI has pledged a 70% increase in the annual welfare budget, along with an additional €3.7m invested in integrity and overall horse care.

Investing in infrastructure is also part of the strategy. The development of a new campus on the site of the former Racing Apprentice Centre in Kildare marks a commitment to fostering future generations of talent within the industry.

Shifting public perceptions of horse racing, coupled with urbanisation and a growing negative view of the gambling industry, are identified as threats.

Additionally, HRI recognises its reliance on government support and media rights as potential weaknesses, emphasising the need to diversify revenue streams.

However, the development of the plan involved extensive stakeholder engagement. By actively listening to industry concerns, HRI aims to navigate these challenges and capitalise on growth opportunities.

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