RACING will pay the financial penalty if the sport does not do more to reach out to a younger and more digitally-savvy audience.
This was the blunt warning from a leading betting industry figure at last night’s ‘state of the nation’ Gimcrack Dinner at York.
Richard Flint, chief executive of Leeds-based Sky Betting and Gaming, revealed that his company now makes four times as much money from a £10 bet on football as it does on horse racing as punters utilise online technology in increasing numbers.
“For good or ill, technological and social change has meant that the traditional relationship between the two industries no longer works,” he told racing’s great and good.
“We need to form a new partnership between racing and betting. A partnership built in the digital world that appeals and engages new audiences.
“If we fail to do this I believe there is one particular, and very serious issue, that will inflict lasting damage on both of our sectors.
“Despite some excellent progress on attendances at courses I know from our own customer research that racing is missing out on a whole new generation of customers.
“A quarter of our customers are under 25. Nearly all of their betting activity is via a mobile device. Even desktop computers are old fashioned to them.
“And those customers are 17 times more likely to bet only on football than only on racing.
“And racing is the favourite sport of just 13 per cent of these customers. That’s a third of the number of the over 55s.
“Racing is facing an unprecedented demographic challenge. We must all work together if we are to address it. And I believe the betting industry is well placed to help.”
Noting that racing’s finances depend on the levy paid by bookmakers as online transactions are included in this funding settlement, Flint challenged the sport to broaden its appeal.
Gone are the days, he said, when horse racing was the primary source of income for the betting industry
“We know that these are potential customers, for both of us; we know the digital channels that they like to use, and know how to engage them,” he added.
“And at Sky Bet at least, we want to promote racing to them, because we believe that racing is in many ways the most exciting sport to bet on.
“We can help address the demographic challenge the sport faces – by working together to promote the sport in an accessible and engaging way to the millions of people who use our services each and every week.
“But with my straight forward business head on this is becoming increasingly difficult to justify.
“Sky Bet makes four times as much from a £10 bet on football as we do on racing.
“And as I’ve said, our younger customer base is already more inclined to bet on football anyway.
“With the Government minded to extend the Levy to online operators at 10 per cent of gross profits, racing becomes a near zero margin sport for us.
“Racing needs us to introduce customers to racing rather than encouraging them elsewhere.”
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