Thoroughbred horse racing is getting a run for its money as one of the prevailing sports with live coverage.
Even without fans in attendance, growth in television exposure and consumer needs have set off more engagement and investment with the sport, and as a result total wagering has soared, with nearly $1 billion wagered in June alone.
“There has been substantial uptick in coverage on television and sports,” CEO of the Breeders' Cup Drew Fleming told FOX Business. “And so with that, you can believe then we've seen a major shift of wagering that was traditionally done either through these offtrack facilities or at the track going to purely mobile devices in the form of ADWs.”
With restrictions on attendance at tracks and OTBs due to the pandemic, there has been a massive shift of profit to advanced-deposit wagering (ADW) platforms, a form of gambling where the bettor must fund his or her account prior to placing any bets usually conducted online or via mobile. According to TVG, the ADW share for 2020 will be substantial given that the handle has stayed level or increased in June and July.
To date, horse racing has received more than 600 hours of television coverage on major sports networks compared to roughly 150 hours last year. In the second quarter wagering report by the state of Oregon, where National ADW wagering is tracked, TVG, the leading horse racing network and one of the largest legal online gaming companies, more than doubled its wagering totals from a year ago. The network hit record TV ratings over the course of the last 3 months.
Betting on horse racing has also made its way to mainstream sports books and online betting platforms like FanDuel, which has promoted FanDuel Racing as opportunity for major sports betting has dwindled.
“All of a sudden we went from both the FanDuel Daily Fantasy app and the FanDuel Sports book app to having virtually no content to give people even though there were still a lot of users on it,” president of FanDuel Group and CEO of TVG, Kip Levin, told FOX Business. “We started cross-promoting the FanDuel Racing app and saw a huge uptick in interest.”
The FanDuel Racing app, launched last year, aims to capture a less experienced audience, while TVG, part of FanDuel Group and owned by Flutter Entertainment, is tailored to the horse race aficionados. Fifty percent of people using the FanDuel Racing app have never bet on a horse race in their lives, according to Levin.
The horse racing industry has not only capitalized on the new consumer needs in a time where sports are on a hiatus, but it has also pushed concerted efforts with leading organizations in order to strengthen and cultivate a new audience.
The Breeders' Cup, one of the richest two days in sports, with $35 million paid out in purses, launched a 5-week national advertising campaign with the Jockey Club in late-May to promote horse racing when tracks started to reopen. The campaign, which ran on NBC Sports, FOX Sports and across targeted social media channels, generated approximately 100 million impressions.
“There’s no doubt that this campaign was a major factor towards increased handle in June and July,” Fleming of Breeders' Cup said. Even though the year to date handle is down 7 percent, it has remained significantly higher on a per race basis, with the most prestigious races yet to come. Last year, Breeder’s Cup scored a record handle of 178 million, Fleming expects the handle to further roll into the event this year and bring in major wagering over the two days of racing.
Despite the disruption and changes to the major horse races, with the Kentucky Derby postponed to September and Preakness to October, the Breeders' Cup is positioned to gain even more visibility and leverage assets.
As the Super Bowl of horse racing, Levin of FanDuel and TVG saw a partnership opportunity with the Breeders' Cup as a way to bring in and teach future fans while fortifying the old ones.
“We will really start to see more traction with FanDuel racing with this year’s Breeders' Cup,” Levin said. “I believe that we will start to see that vision of growth come to light.”