Anne M. Eberhardt

Purses Up Bit In January But Handle Off 9.7%

Handle dropped but purses increased a bit in January 2010.

United States purses increased slightly in January year-over-year despite a reduction in racing days, but pari-mutuel handle on U.S. races dropped almost 10%, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators.

The handle drop can be attributed to many things, including weather, a California racing boycott, and closure of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., which operated in January 2010. Still, it appears a turnaround is likely in 2011.

Wagering on U.S races, including worldwide commingled handle, was $827,947,674 in January, down 9.71% from $917,014,242 in January 2010. The number of race days—individual programs at each track—was 330, down 4.62% from 346 last January.

The bright spot was the drop in handle wasn’t as severe as it was in January 2010, when wagering fell 12.03% from January 2009. Also, purses were down 10.04% in January 2010 compared with January 2009.

Purses rebounded 0.78%, according to the Equibase figures. January purses totaled $64,068,657 compared with $63,574,044 in January 2010.

The January numbers come on the heels of a 2010 in which total handle dropped 7.3%, purses fell 6%, and number of race days dropped 7.7% from the previous year.