Anne M. Eberhardt

Total Handle Up for First Time Since 2006

With an increase of less than 1%, wagering on U.S. races totaled $10.8 billion.

Despite a slight decline in wagering in December, total pari-mutuel handle on United States racing in 2012 was up 0.96%, the first increase since 2006, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators released by Equibase Jan. 5.

Worldwide commingled handle on U.S. races totaled $10,873,709,012 in 2012 compared with $10,770,246,313 in 2011. In December, handle totaled $789,848,984, down 1.34% from $800,597,776 in December 2011.

Handle at one point earlier in 2012 was up about 7% from the same period in 2011, but it tailed off as the year progressed.

U.S. purses were up 6.33%, from $1,057,381,289 in 2011 to $1,124,260,862 last year. December purses of $71,478,436 were up 2.29% from $69,878,527 from the previous December.

The number of race days–individual programs at each track–increased 0.23% from 5,298 in 2011 to 5,310 in 2012. For December, race days were down 3.18% to 335 from 346.

Based on the figures, average handle for individual programs at each track was $2.04 million.

In 2006 total pari-mutuel handle on Thoroughbred races was $14.78 billion, up 1.51% from 2005. The slide began in 2007, when total wagering dropped 0.37%.

Equibase statistics reflect subsequent declines in handle of 7.16% in 2008, 9.88% in 2009, 7.33% in 2010, and 5.65% in 2011.

Total wagering in 2006 was about $3.9 billion higher than it was last year, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators. That's a drop of 26.4%.