Anne M. Eberhardt

U.S. Wagering, Purses Continue to Decline

Purses fell during the month of June but are up overall for 2011.

Key economic indicators for the U.S. horse racing industry maintained the status quo in June, with declines in total wagering, purses, and race days.

According to figures released July 5 by Equibase Company, total wagering on U.S. races totaled $886,944,168, a 5.21% decline from the $935,707,537 bet during the same month a year ago. Total purses fell 4.27% to $96,764,394 from the June 2010 figure of $99,974,935 and the number of U.S. race days of 542 represented a 9.67% decline from the 600 race days a year ago.

The month was highlighted by the $81.2 million wagered on the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) Day card at Belmont Park, which was up 8.9% over the previous year.

The number of race days declined at a greater rate than did the wagering, resulting in an average daily increase, perhaps the only silver lining in the pari-mutuel handle data. The average handle per race day of $1,636,420 in June 2011 represented a 4.9% improvement over the June 2010 average of $1,559,512.

Overall, Equibase reported year-do-date total wagering of $5,526,048,808 on U.S. races through June, a drop of 7.67%, with purses up 1.15% to $482,248,045, and the average race days down 6.16% to total 2,481.

The average daily handle per race day of $2,227,347 was down 1.6% from the daily race day average of $2,263,626 through June of 2010.