Could the Racino model work outside the US?

Published 2021/01/08

Could the Racino model work outside the US?

When it comes to deciding what to do in our spare time, we are spoilt for choice. For many, a great way to stay entertained can be to watch horse racing, whilst others love to visit the casino. So, what happens when you bring them together? You have a racino. Yet, outside of the US, racinos aren’t that popular, and here we will be looking at why that’s the case, and whether they will make an impact across the globe.

What is a racino?

A racino is a combination of a race track and a casino, hence the name, which have been around since 1989. They're exactly what you'd think - these venues are licensed to allow you to watch horse racing, as you normally would, as well as betting as you would at a casino in between.

In some cases, the betting can be limited, though. Some racinos will only have slot machines, but, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number which have popular table games, like blackjack, poker, and roulette.

So, it’s a great way for individuals to combine two of their passions on a night out.

Why are they so popular?

As touched upon, racinos have become a hit in the US, and it’s easy to see why. It combines two forms of entertainment, providing a niche alternative to the average casino.

One issue for some when they go to horse racing is the lengthy times between races. Yes, you could fill your time getting a drink or looking at upcoming races, but it can be a little frustrating as you count down the minutes until the next one begins, patiently waiting for fixtures and news. Clearly, this model eliminates that problem. You can play some casino favourites, and then watch the race, making it a great night of entertainment for avid gamblers.

It hasn’t worked elsewhere

Despite that, racinos haven’t really taken off elsewhere, and you have to say that’s surprising, particularly in countries like Australia and England.

In both countries, horse racing is very popular, and there is the thought that this takes away from the sport. People may no longer be going to specifically watch the jockeys, horses, and trainers involved, which could bring in the sort of fans that people don’t want. In England, there are many iconic races that are sporting institutions. For example, the Grand National has been run since 1839, so the sport has historical importance to many people. Changing the venues and tracks would be significant.

For Australia, there is also a historical pull to horse racing, which will play a part. However, for a nation that once had more than 80% of its adult population gambling, it’s perhaps a surprise that racinos haven’t been successful.

Its a thriving industry Down Under, with a host of options available to players who want to try out the pokies or classic table games. Yet, it’s so far remained separate from the horse racing industry overall - however, could we soon see this change?

Previous attempts proved unsuccessful

After looking at the popularity of racinos in the US, it wasn’t a surprise to see that other countries wanted to test it out for themselves. However, in England, there still isn’t such a venue, despite attempts to push several through over a decade ago.

Talks had taken place to bring one to the city centre in Wolverhampton, which wouldn’t have been a first in the UK, but they were shelved. Similar talks took place in other potential venues across the country, yet nothing has yet come to fruition.

Given that these latest developments happened some time ago, it seems unlikely that this stance is going to change in the near future. There is no major demand for the gambling model, with punters in England happy at how the current situation works.

Will things change?

Following on from that, we'd have to surmise that the answer to this question would be quite a resounding 'no'. Of course, these things do take time, as licenses need to be granted, venues identified, and it would all have to come together to work.

Having said that, it may only take one racino to be built in a new country, and for it to take off, for the model to spread quickly. Given the concept of combining horse racing and casino gambling is an in-demand one across the USA, it’s not something that should ever be ruled out, whilst further tweaks could make it appeal to multiple different markets.

Ultimately though, racinos are very popular in the US, and it’s simply remaining as that for now. Whilst many countries on the planet enjoy both aspects of racing and casino, they will continue to remain separate for the foreseeable future.