According to the latest Gambling Commission Annual Report, published in February, 2018, nearly half of British adults participated in at least one form of gambling in the last month. Aside from the National Lottery, scratchcards and other lotteries, horse racing was second only to football as the most popular betting activity in Britain in 2017. The most popular reasons for gambling on horse racing were, of course, to win money, but also for fun and enjoyment and as a break from everyday routine.
Gambling on horse racing has some unique characteristics that define not only the activity but, often, also the behaviour of those who participate. American sportswriter Roger Khan called horse racing ‘animated roulette’, but unlike roulette and other games of pure chance, the sport offers a wealth of detailed information which, if correctly interpreted, can help identify the likely winner(s) of any race.
Of course, studying the information, a.k.a. ‘form’, takes time – another characteristic that sets gambling on horse racing apart – but some gamblers derive tremendous satisfaction from seeing predictions made ‘on paper’ translated into results in the real world. Indeed, some of the most successful horse racing gamblers collect and compile their own data, from a variety of sources, to create a competitive ‘edge’ for their gambling activity. The form book aside, horse racing gamblers must learn the terminology, or parlance, of the betting industry, including the types of bet available, the mechanics of how, when and where to place a bet and so on.
Psychologically, the steady increase in excitement as a horse race progresses is, in itself, rewarding to some types of gambler. In fact, scientific research has shown that horse racing gamblers typically rate higher on the sensation seeking scale than other types of gambler. They are attracted to the unknown and are willing to take monetary risks in order to satisfy their need for new, varied and unpredictable experiences. The countless imponderables that govern the outcome of a horse race provide ample compensation on the last three counts, while the ‘novelty’ of a potential win, and immediate financial reward, reinforce the desire to gamble.