The chairman and CEO of PMU, Philippe Germond, told an audience in Hong Kong that horse racing faces a major risk of obsolescence. He called for more investment in racetracks, more horse ownership and a programme that would attract new customers. Perhaps more importantly, he drew attention to the 20% of races in France having fewer than eight runners thus creating very poor betting markets.

This is not new. British bookmakers who advise the BHA through the Betting Patterns Working Committee, a subcommittee of the Levy Board, have been bringing this to their attention for at least ten years. Much has been done to increase fields and sponsor more handicap races where the favourites start at more than 3/1 against.
At the same conference Paul Bittar from the BHA said UK horse racing needs a more stable form of funding. The UK system is presently based on a levy of bookmakers gross win and the revenue can fluctuate along with results. 

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne mentioned that the current Government would be looking to introduce a ‘right to bet’ in his 2014 Budget. This came as a complete surprise to the betting industry who had thought the matter dead and buried after the extensive talks with the DCMS led to no agreeable solution between the parties. (“Horserace betting right, wrong”, April 2014). 
The insertion into the speech probably came from Matthew Hancock, the MP for Newmarket (the headquarters of British horse racing) and a friend of the Chancellor.
Mr. Bittar said in his speech that there was now a realistic opportunity for a genuine commercial replacement to the current Levy system of funding and went on to say “we are looking to get into a position in which government has no direct involvement in the funding of racing.”
This will be no easy achievement. I have always argued that the purest way to achieve such a result would be for the government to name a day for the Levy to end and walk away leaving bookmakers to stump up the money to ensure the continuance of the product and racing to come up with an affordable price.
The chance of this happening is 100/1. In any other commercial activity this is what would happen. But for reasons I have never understood horse racing is different.
I once asked a Conservative Minister what would Adam Smith (author of Wealth of Nations, the first book of economics) have done? The Minister in question very often boasted his free market non-intervention credentials to the Tory faithful. He said “Oh! He would have just ended the Levy.”
Clearly the Conservative party is not the party it used to be. 
Racing is clearly losing market share against other gambling products but still continues to have a hard core of supporters as shown by the prevalence survey conducted by the National Centre for Social Research. All forms of gambling were covered but under betting activities betting on horse races came top at 12% with online betting and betting on sports events joint second at 8% each.
What I like about horse racing is that the product is complex. 
You have to take so many factors into account before placing a bet: 
• Has the horse won over this distance? 
• Does the selection have a good jockey?
• Has the horse run well at this course before? 
• Can the horse act on the going? 
• Is the trainer in form? 
• Do the odds offer value? 
• Is there a form line with other horses? 
• Has the handicapper penalized the horse? 
• Will the draw affect the race? 
Now compare this with roulette, the most popular game on the FOBTs in the betting shops.
Do you want a number, column or and even money bet? Regrettably this is what most people now prefer.
We live in a world where speed and instant gratification is everything. Why?
Technology has changed how we think. We are processing information so fast now that we simply do not have the time to sit down and analyse a horse race let alone an entire race card. We are being constantly interrupted by a stream of emails, messages, news flashes and people posting photos on Facebook they believe you want to see. 
Even if we did have the time, studying form as I used to as a teenager, spending all night on one race would seem boring to most people. For the under 25s racing is too slow, too complex, too time consuming.
However, they do like a day at the races but mostly to eat and drink not bet.
So how can this possibly be resolved? The problem is those that have the power to institute change do not want change to take place. They are ultra conservative, like racing exactly the way it is run now. It is like a gentlemen’s club where they go racing meet their friends, watch their horses run, they understand the rules of the game and would rather they were not changed. Why would they?
Which is fine providing you are willing to accept that your sport is in decline and you will need to stump up more money to maintain the standards you expect. 
In the Sunday Times Jeremy Clarkson recently wrote about cricket. Clarkson has been to Lord’s and berates the sport as being too slow, rain stops play, they stop to have tea, and they only play with one ball, imagine he says ‘if Wimbledon was played with one ball’. It slows the game.
Clarkson Googled the phrase “make cricket more interesting” and got 300,000 hits. With suggestions how it could be done. It is clearly on people’s minds.
So it should be – attendances are falling for Test cricket around the world. This is what former England Captain Andrew Strauss told the BBC: “If we are arrogant enough to assume that Test cricket will always be there, we are sowing the seeds of our own downfall.” 
The figures speak for themselves. One-day matches attract crowds in Melbourne of 64,000 whereas for the five-day games only 30,000 turn up. So cricket has adapted to the one-day and T20 versions of the game and people love it.
I Googled “make horse racing more interesting” and got 145,000 hits with no suggestions at all. A lot of ratings, tips, and adverts for betting.
Does it mean everyone is happy? For those that go racing, I would think they are content with the way things are run. It is the people who do not bet on horses or go racing that the industry needs to worry about.
On a brighter note my grandchildren, aged 12 and 10, who live in Madrid are coming to see me in July. When I asked what they would like to do they were emphatic – they want to go horse racing. They want to do that more than anything else. There is hope. 
 
A dying breed – horse racing faces extinction
By Warwick Bartlett