Every year at this time, Triple Crown-time, a few journalists invariably write negative stories about horse racing. This year is no exception, with one writer describing the sport as “anachronistic” and “moribund.”

The evidence cited for such conclusions is most often that racetracks have sparse crowds to watch the races live. Because not a lot of people are watching in person, therefore, the sport is unpopular and dying. This is a fallacy and a non sequitur. To be blunt, an individual making such a deduction does not have the facts and/or is a lazy thinker. It’s like deducing that movies are passé because people are not going to theaters as they once did (but rather are using Netflix to view at home or elsewhere).

Horse racing, like many other endeavors–including newspapers, magazines, and television–was long ago disrupted by the Internet. People can watch races on cable television, a computer, or a mobile device and bet over the Internet or via phone.

Even avid racing fans don’t attend the racetrack as often as in the past, but that does not mean they are not watching and wagering. Typically, 80 percent of the money bet on a race comes from off-track sources and 20 percent on-track.

While pari-mutuel wagering has unquestionably lost ground to gaming, it remains an $11.6 billion enterprise in North America. In parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and Japan, the sport is hugely popular. In Europe, horse racing retains its “sport of king’s” image. When the agribusiness side of racing is factored in, the sport/industry is much larger still.

Journalists looking for something to write about that is declining can find plenty of fodder in daily newspapers, or magazines, or even network television. Not many daily newspapers, in particular, have been able to become profitable online, and some are going to three-day-a-week publishing. Horse racing, by contrast, has been highly successful in monetizing its product online. In fact, the big data generated by horse races are made to order for the digital world.

Don’t mistake empty stands at Aqueduct or Hollywood Park for a death knell.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business