Ballybrit may have lost the infamous Fianna Fáil tent, the huge corporate village, and VIP tents but, with spending and attendances up significantly this year, it looks like people are finally getting back to spending a little of their cash.
For the first five days of the festival, attendances were well up on that of 2013. For Ladies Day, traditionally the biggest betting day of the week, just over 34,000 people came through the turnstiles — up from 27,669 on last year.
In terms of the amount gambled, the figures were similarly encouraging with Tote spend on Thursday coming to €996,842 compared to €820,253 last year. The bookmakers took in over €1.8m compared to €1.2m last year.
In total, the bookies took in over €6m, with attendances topping 100,000 for the first five days — up around 13,000 on 2013.
Galway Racecourse manager John Maloney said the bumper week in Ballybrit was a sign that consumers were starting to spend again. “We have had a great week so far. It’s up on last year but last year we got the rain too. But I think it’s great to see that the figures are up. The betting and bookmakers figure of over €1.8m and the Tote just four thousand short of a million is great. It’s great to see racing on its way back.”
Last month, the Killarney Festival also had a similarly impressive few days with attendance up 12%, the Tote takings up a massive 34% and on course bookies up 3%.
Killarney Racecourse manager Micheál Lucey said the figures showed consumers were starting to spend again. “The figures are reflective of an improving consumer sentiment with indications that domestic demand will expand for the current year in stark contrast to a number of years of contraction.”
The trend is being matched across the industry with attendances at Irish racecourses growing 5% in the first half of this year, with the average attendance rising by 5.7%.