Anne M. Eberhardt

Indicators: Handle Off $100 Million in August

Pari-mutuel handle was off by almost $100 million in August.

Pari-mutuel handle was off by about $100 million in August compared with the same month in 2009, yet another indication any rebound will take longer than some in the industry imagined.

August is a key month with premier meets at Del Mar in California and Saratoga in New York, and this year, an enhanced meet at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. The major meets are holding their own, so other tracks and wagering outlets must be taking the brunt of the decline.

There was, however, a sizeable 13.23% drop in race days—individual programs at each track—from 650 last August to 564 this August.

Total wagering on United States Thoroughbred races in August 2010 was $1,119,843,513, down 8.03% from $1,217,598,852 for the same month in 2009. U.S. purses fell again—this time 7.92%--from $113,552,431 last year to $104,561,464 this year.

The Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators released Sept. 3 by Equibase reflect a setback. In July of this year, total handle was down only 1.96% from the previous July, and purses off only 0.50%, offering some hope of a turnaround.

Through the first eight months of 2010, wagering on U.S. races totaled $8,134,192,037, down 7.27% from  the $8,771,944,061 total for the same period last year. Purses totaled $690,761,655, down 5.15% from $728,283,682 last year. Race days totaled 3,838, down 6.73% from 4,115 in 2009.

From January-August 2010, purses totaled 8.49% of total handle. For the same period in 2009, that figure was 8.30%.