Month Versus Month, Charles Town Handle Grows

Charles Town Races reported an interesting handle record spanning 15 months.

Average daily pari-mutuel handle on live racing at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was up again in July, allowing the West Virginia track to register 15 consecutive months of year-over-year handle gains.

The figure includes money wagered on live races at Charles Town and through all other outlets that commingle handle. The streak began in May 2010, and since then handle has increased each month when compared with the same month the previous year for an average of about 15%, Charles Town officials said.

The smallest increase came this July, when handle averaged $797,350 per program, up 2% from July 2010. Most of the increases, however, have been double-digit, including a high of 30.9% in February 2011, when handle averaged $1,205,474 per program versus $920,932 in February 2010.

The February 2011 average was a record for the track, which opened in the 1930s.

“It’s great to see our growth, especially in the simulcast market,” said Charles Town director of racing operations Erich Zimny. “We’ve been pretty aggressive in branding our signal using higher-profile events and daily television coverage to capture the residual fan interest off of that.”

Zimny noted Charles Town this past winter opted to race Tuesday nights instead of Sunday afternoons to capitalize on the simulcast market, and handle increased. Sunday racing was restored when the weather improved in April.

Handle in the winter and early spring was particularly strong, averaging more than $1 million a night in February, March, and April for five-day race weeks.

Through the first seven months of 2011, average daily handle is up 18% from the comparable period in 2010, the track reported.

Average daily handle in April of more than $1.13 million grew 15.8%, in part because of the multi-stakes Charles Town Classic (gr. III) program. The Classic has been run three times, and those three nights of racing produced the three highest one-day handles in track history.

“Keeping this streak going will be tough as we run into some months where the benchmark is high for us, but anytime you’re looking at 15 straight months of gains, especially in this economy, you have to be pleased,” Zimny said.