Isn’t it time that governments stopped placing losing bets?



In September last year, IBISWorld released the Industry Report for Horse and Dog Racing in Australia, 2015. The report examines all codes of racing nationally from 2007 to 2015 (forecasting to the year 2021). The front page more than hints at the report findings, with the headline “Hold your horses: Industry revenue has been declining due to flat attendance numbers.” [1]

The clear conclusion is that horse and dog racing in Australia is a dying industry, proven by a consistent decline in revenue over the timespan examined (e.g., a decline of 23.2% in 2007-2008 from the previous year). Value-added figures essentially mirror the decline in revenue figures over the same timespan. Based on the analysis, the prediction is that industry revenue is set to fall at an annualised 2.3% to $1.4 billion by 2020-2021. Employment too is in consistent decline from 17,151 jobs in 2006-2007 to 9,189 in 2015-2016.

The IBISWorld report provides national and all codes data, with some analysis of the individual state and territory-based industries. The racing industry is largest in Victoria, followed by New South Wales, with Queensland being the third largest. The national data trends provided are therefore most representative of the industries in these three states.

Regarding the different codes, taking Victoria as an example, according to the IER 2013 Victorian Racing Industry: Size and Scope report [2], the Greyhound Racing Industry is the smallest and the Thoroughbred Racing Industry the largest. According to the IER report, in the year examined (2010-2011 racing season), of the 29,100 jobs (12,500 full-time equivalent) directly related to all racing codes, only 2,500 or 8.59% were related to greyhound racing, and only 1,073 of these were full-time equivalent positions.

The declining trend is related to the fact that the key source of revenue for racing authorities has been restricted over the past five years as a consequence of the increased popularity of other forms of gambling, including sports betting. “Dropping attendance numbers and declining interest in on-course and off-course race wagering affect racing authorities, race clubs, and animal owners and trainers” [1; p. 7]. In the long-term, it is predicted that this decline will cause more players to exit the industry.

Casting the analysis within a lifecycle evaluation of the industry, the inescapable conclusion is that “The Horse and Dog Racing industry is in the declining stage of its economic lifecycle.” [1; p. 10].

The economic problems facing the industry are exemplified by the current situation in Queensland where it was revealed in June, 2015 that Racing Queensland was in financial strife facing an $11 million loss this year and a forecasted $21 million loss in the 2015/2016 financial year [3]. And even prior to the live-baiting scandal that has thrown Australian greyhound racing into chaos, the 2013 NSW inquiry into greyhound racing concluded “The key finding of this report is that with its current structure and sources of revenue the greyhound racing industry in New South Wales may be unsustainable [4; p. ix]”. In WA too, greyhound racing is struggling financially [5].

Since the February 2015 live baiting expose, there has been an endless stream of unsavoury revelations relating to greyhound racing, including mass graves [6], industry lies and cover-ups [7], and the unacceptably high rates of  “wastage” of young and healthy dogs [8]. All of this has prompted strong calls for the greyhound racing industry to be shut down [9, 10]. In horse racing, there was the recent cobalt scandal further tarnishing the reputation of the horse racing industry [11] as well as the horse deaths related to the Melbourne Cup [12]. Not surprisingly, public opinion is increasingly reflecting a strong opposition to racing, in particular jumps racing [13] and greyhound racing [9].

With powerful criteria – economic, criminal behaviour, welfare and moral – pointing to a bleeding industry with a dire prognosis, why are governments refusing to shut it down? Isn’t it time that governments stopped placing losing bets?


  1. Horse and Dog Racing in Australia (2015). IBISWorld Industry Report R9120
    Note: IBISWorld is a company that provides independent and up to date research for over 500 industries including Australia’s top 2000 companies.
  1. Size and Scope of the Victorian Racing Industry (2013).Victorian Racing Industry
    Note: IER describes itself as a “boutique business consultancy specializing in research, strategy development, economic and social impact studies, and performance measurement in the sport, racing, tourism, and entertainment industries.” It is reasonable to argue that the IER company is not an independent body. There is some evidence that the data reported were selectively extracted and presented in favor of the Racing Industry as exemplified by what appears to be inflated employment numbers when compared with the nationwide figures contained in the IBISWorld report.
  2. ‘Shocking debt’ deepens Racing Qld crisis. (June, 2015).
  3. Greyhound racing in NSW: First Report. (March, 2014).
  4. Greyhound racing set for big overhaul. (April, 2015).
  5. Some of the 55 greyhounds in mass grave may have been beaten to death. (April, 2015).
  6. Greyhound live baiting: Internal documents reveal cover-ups, tip-offs and mismanagement inside NSW racing regulator (August, 2015).
  7. Greyhound industry kills up to 17,000 young dogs, warned about being shut down, inquiry hears (September, 2015).
  8. Time runs out for greyhound racing cruelty (October, 2015).
  9. Greyhound racing: Nation Shut it Down protest aims to influence NSW inquiry outcome. (January, 2016).
  10. Cobalt doping scandal could be racing’s worst rot (July, 2015).
  11. Melbourne Cup 2015: The deadly moment a nation has forgotten (October, 2015).
  12. SA parliamentary committee debates banning jumps racing. (March, 2016).




Author: eleonoragullone

I am an author, adjunct associate professor in psychology and have advocated for animal welfare for more than 15 years. On the basis of my extensive research, I can confidently argue that if we cultivate a culture of compassion toward all of our non-human citizens, including those currently exploited for human use (such as food, sport and experimentation), current and future generations will benefit through reduced antisocial and violent behaviour toward all sentient beings including humans. Over my 25-year career as an academic, I have published over 100 scholarly articles in refereed academic journals and have also conducted a number of projects examining the link between aggression toward humans and cruelty toward animals. In 2000, I founded a group within the Australian Psychological Society focused on promoting positive interactions between humans and animals. This work has resulted in several scholarly publications including a book published in 2012, titled Animal cruelty, Antisocial Behaviour and Aggression: More than a link.

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