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Greyhounds: Irish buoyant as record figures revealed for 2004.

Byline: Michael Fortune

LAST year was officially the greatest ever in Irish greyhound racing history. The preliminary figures for 2004 released this week report new record figures in all aspects of the racing scene, writes Michael Fortune. Since 1996 Irish greyhound racing has been on an upward curve but many felt that a peak may have been reached in a record-breaking 2003. Far from it, there were double digit increases in all areas, with tote betting, attendances and prizemoney all jumping by more than 24 per cent.

The quite amazing statistic is that tote betting at tracks has now grown to rival the amount wagered on the tote at horse venues, while the number of punters going greyhound racing has now moved level with horseracing.

Horse Racing Ireland yesterday announced their preliminary figures for the year and reported an aggregate attendance figure of 1.38 million racegoers last year, exactly the same as attended the dog tracks.

Tote betting on the racecourses jumped sev-en per cent to EUR47.4m, while tote betting at greyhound tracks moved up by a massive 26.1 per cent to EUR46.3m. It's a fair bet that greyhound racing will top the horse figures next year.

Bookmaker betting, while down on the racecourses, grew by over 13 per cent on the dog tracks last year to reach a new high of EUR93.3m, compared with EUR22.2m back in 1995.

Overall betting at the tracks reached EUR139.6m, an increase of 17.2 per cent, while prize-money paid to owners amounted to EUR10.3m, an increase of 24 per cent over 2003. Sponsorship also jumped over 10 per cent and amounted to EUR10.3m.

Not surprisingly, IGB chairman Paschal Taggart was thrilled with the results. ``For an industry worth in excess of EUR300m annually to the Irish economy, the sector continues to maintain exceptional growth. Such levels of escalating growth must be viewed in context, where 2004's key performance indicators, primarily totalisator betting, achieved staggering growth levels in the order of 26 per cent on 2003 figures.

``On-course bookmaker betting turnovers have now reached a seventh year of double digit compound growth, increasing by over 13 per cent on 2003 figures, now amounting to EUR93.3m.''

New IGB chief executive officer Aidan Tynan was hugely impressed by the attendance figures and said: ``The significant growth is testament to the success of IGB's capital development strategy. The development of modern stadia with quality dining and a focus on corporate and leisure entertainment markets has rejuvenated public perception of greyhound racing.

``The sport is now considered a competitively priced corporate and social night's entertainment. This strategy has also resulted in a change in customer profile. On average over 26,500 people go greyhound racing in Ireland each and every week, with facilities at Shelbourne Park, Harold's Cross, Curraheen Park, Galway, Lifford, Dundalk and many more such stadia attracting customers with high disposable incomes, which has positively impacted on income spend per head.''

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IGB's Aidan Tynan Impressed
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 14, 2005
Words:501
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