Prix d’Amerique -Post Race Observations

As visitors to the 2010 Prix d’Amerique from North America return to work and reality, one can only reflect on the experience. What differences exist vs. North America! What works and what can be applied elsewhere? Why does it work? We had the good fortune to interact with people in the industry from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France and elsewhere. We had the opportunity to research and review information from Pari Mutuel Europe and the British Horseracing Authority, and then to pose several important questions to our European colleagues.

Why is horse racing a major league sport in many European countries? The answer was a single word “HORSE”…trainer/drivers comment that we (the person) are unimportant.
Why is pari-mutual wagering strong and growing in some European countries? The answer again was a single word “ETHICS”. The sport is clean and the bettors believe it, know it and therefore are comfortable being “punters”. Further, in France there are over 2,200 OTB locations and over 200 racetracks, all centrally organized and controlled. 31% of all wagers represent takeout and goes to management of racing properties and technology, promotion and marketing and to the horse industry. Horsemen are engaged from the start and their goals and livelihood are aligned with pari-mutuel wagering.
What organizational lessons can be learned from European countries? Pari Mutuel Europe (EPMA) is comprised of 10 countries traditionally active in developing horseracing and horse breeding (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom). They wish to share their common concerns about developing efficient regulations taking into account the promotion of the equine sector and consumer’s fairness and protection. Other operators take an opposite approach. Recently an online betting and gaming business relocated to Gibraltar, thereby taking profit from not paying taxes and levies to compete on an unfair basis with responsible operators. The EPMA members respect strong ethical principles:
  • Observe strict compliance with legal frameworks
  • Develop and improve responsible gaming tools
  • Respect commitment to integrity (EPMA operators only enable betting on successful results)
  • Fund horseracing in a maximized and predictable way often enlarged to other components of the equestrian sector (Olympic teams, equestrian centers, schools and local development)
EPMA is a non-profit association with operators directly contributing to racing. EPMA members collected 14 billion (euros) in bets in 2008 and 1.5 billion euros went back to racing and the horse industry.
The European hose betting and horse racing industry is a large and vivid sector. The betting sector is comprised of 20 million punters that bet 35 billion euros annually with over 1.6 billion euros paid to governments in taxes (12 European countries).
The European horse racing industry affects people, land, events and horses”
  • People – 40,000 breeders, over 300,000 jobs of which 150,000 are directly employed
  • Land – 500 racetracks throughout Europe; 4% of European agricultural land is used to produce horse feed
  • Events – 80,000 horse races annually, on average 18 horse races per hour from noon to midnight
  • Horses – 170,000 race horses; over 390 million euros in public sales of race horses annually
The horse racing footprint on the European economy is significant, with over 6.1 billion euros of economic impact excluding other equine contribution (revenues from sport/leisure activity and other entertainment activities). Horseracing impact on the economy includes:
  • Betting operators’ contribution: betting revenues excluding returns to bettors and governments
  • Race goers’ contribution: expenses incurred by race goers during race days such as admissions and hospitality
  • Owners contributions: net expenses to train horses and take part in races excluding capital investment to buy horses and contributions from stallion/broodmare breeding
  • Other contributions: revenues for sponsoring (other than betting operators), state subsidies
A recent study issued by EPMA provided the following information and conclusions:
  • The horse racing sector is closely linked with equine sector and beyond with flows through the entire economyPrix_Am3_4.jpg
  • Horse racing employs directly and indirectly over 300,000 people throughout Europe, or 2.4% of all jobs in the agricultural sector and 1.8 direct and indirect employees per race horse
  • Horse racing contributes to the preservation and care of a vivid countryside. Horses contribute to countryside preservation and land settlement. Some European regions benefit tremendously from horse-related activities (e.g., Basse Normandie (France) and County Kildare (Ireland))
  • Horse racing fosters social cohesion. Some races are events of national importance attracting diversified spectators. Horse betting attracts numerous and varied punters
  • Horse racing fosters social insertion and embodies a truly European activity, such as dedicated equestrian championships for disabled people and racing circuits organized across different European countries (e.g., European Grand Circuit of Trotting comprised of 13 races in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway and Sweden)
  • Betting is the key to horseracing funding and betting operators have a vital role in organizing bets and funneling economic flows to the industry
  • Horse racing employment is closely correlated to horse betting turnover. The higher the horse betting turnover the higher the employment in the horse racing sector. Correlation coefficient = 0.9. France employs over 45,000 on turnover of 10 billion euros. UK employs 40,000 on turnover of 15 billion euros
  • Horse breeding dynamism is driven by purses financed by betting. Betting operators contribute to funding purses. The higher the purses the higher number of breeders (correlation coefficient = 0.82), the higher the average purses per race the higher number of foals, mares and stallions (correlation coefficient = 0.94). France has 12,000 breeders and 375 million euros in purses. France has 45,000 stallions, mares and foals and average purse per race of 21,000 euros
  • Non-uniform regulation leads to decline of the horse racing sector. The lower attractiveness of the pari-mutuel betting operator destabilizes the entire horse racing sector. The German horse industry has been in decline since 2001 as the legal pari-mutuel framework broke down as off-shore bookmaking gained share and no betting taxes are paid. Since 2001 German number of races are down 31%; owners down 18%’ trainers down 42%; jockeys and drivers down 44%; betting turnover down 54% and number of horses in training down 29%

  • The pari-mutuel model is far different from other betting models and succeeds in FR, SWE


Conclusions are clear – horse racing matters for the economy and environment; horse racing is largely funded by betting; regulation is needed on a consistent legal framework; the pari-mutuel model works and generates a higher redistribution to the horse sector.
What performance enhancing drugs can be used in France? None, period. The top five finishers and one other participant are tested in each race. Horses are entered to race seven days ahead and can be removed without penalty four days from race date. Trainers that have horses that have had vet work performed, such as injecting a hock, can elect to have that horse tested at reasonable cost to ensure that the horse is testing clean. Suspensions and penalties for positive tests are severe and can be career ending.
What about the North American whipping rule controversy? The remarks are one-handed whipping adds nothing. The horses do not go faster. Penalties and suspensions for whipping and kicking are very severe and therefore the drivers adhere to the rules.
What attracts casual fans and new investors to the horse industry, to horse tracks, to wagering on horses? Horse ownership is part of the culture. Many owners and breeders own one horse. It’s a way toward affordable sports ownership and participation in a sport that has credibility, popularity and media coverage. It a desirable space to be in.
Comments from European horse owners, breeders and board members of trotting associations and pari-mutuel organizations.
“Horses are more valued as great animals and individuals here because many horses race several years and become "idols" for those who follow their career. You probably saw also in Vincennes that there were huge fan clubs for different horses and people travel around Europe to see those idols racing. Also many European drivers have their fan clubs and especially some French drivers are huge stars in trotting world. That is just what this sports needs! You are right that many American horses retire too early to gain that position to collect such a fans. Great horses like Muscle Hill and Deweycheatumnhowe would have been BIG stars here in Europe if they would have come here and compete against our best horses and they would have been treated as royalties.”

“PR work on promoting big races is also very important. Paris has its Prix d’Amerique, Sweden Elitloppet, Norway Oslo Grand Prix and so on. Horse lovers usually want to see all of those events but it is important to get others who are not so interested in horses before to know what those weekends are for. In Scandinavia at least are lots of advertisements in newspapers and posters all around big cities to try to get all people to come to event. And once we get those new people into the track we need to try to make event as pleasant as possible for them so they could come back again on a normal race day. Quite many still think that trotting especially is something only for "Inside" people and it is nothing for everyone but it should be totally opposite! Whole family should be able to enjoy races with good food, nice settings and most importantly exciting sports!”

“It is very important that people keep on betting in races because that is the only way to pay back good price money to horse-owners but that doesn’t still prevent us making races more interesting happenings and also owning a racehorse more attractive. What could be more exciting than following your own horse racing! Most of the people think first the prestige and only after that money. There are too few people that have become really rich by owing horses but there are very many that have had their best times when having their horses winning some classical races or even a small race in a local track and that feeling should be marketed to more new potential horse-owners.”



Leave a Reply