Horse betting handle totaled $1.1 billion nationwide in August, a 7% decline from the same month last year ($1.19 billion.)
US sports betting in August already surpassed $3.31 billion with less than half of legal markets reporting monthly financial figures to date.
Reasons for horse betting declines
Smaller field sizes and fewer races contribute to bringing down betting dollars. There were nearly 200 fewer races nationwide in August 2023 compared to August 2022.
According to the New York Racing Association (NYRA), horseplayers wagered nearly $800 million on Saratoga races between mid-July and Labor Day. It was a 9% drop from the 2022 meet, which handled $878.2 million.
Horse racing also features a limited wagering menu without prop bets and traditional future wagers, making it a less competitive product than sports betting.
Weather clouds summer racing in New York
There were 410 races this year at Saratoga. The rain forced 65 races off the turf, typically leading to smaller, less competitive fields.
On Aug. 4, NYRA canceled four races because of heavy rain.
Equine deaths plague horse betting
Public perception of horse racing matters, too. According to New York State Gaming Commission records, 16 horses died at Saratoga between May and August.
Eight fatalities happened while racing, including two just yards from the finish line during national TV broadcasts on Fox Sports.
The summer equine deaths in New York came after seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby.
West Coast horse betting declines
Del Mar, another popular summer racing meet in San Diego, also experienced handle declines this year.
According to figures from the Daily Racing Form, horseplayers bet $391.8 million in 2023, down from $439.7 million a year ago.
Two tracks scheduled to close
Turf Paradise in Phoenix, AZ announced this week it will end live racing and close its off-track betting locations on Oct. 1.
Golden Gate Fields in Northern California is also expected to close its doors next summer.