Anne M. Eberhardt

Handle, Purse Declines Not as Bad in April

Declines in handle and purses weren't as severe in April.

Pari-mutuel handle and purses for April 2010 didn’t approach the levels of the same month two years ago, but the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators released May 4 could reflect a slowing of the erosion in wagering of the past two years.

It didn't hurt that this year's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) program was held in April rather than May, as it was last year. The Oaks card from Churchill Downs generated $35.9 million in total handle and no doubt fueled betting on races at other facilities that day.

According to the monthly numbers provided by Equibase, handle on United States races in April 2010 totaled $1,002,149,983, down only 2.52% from $1,028,038,079 in April 2009. Last year’s figure for the month was down 10.07% from the same month in 2008.

In March 2010, handle was down 6.21% from March 2009.

Purses totaled $82,087,326, down 0.25% from $82,285,415 last April. The 2009 figure represented a 9.24% decrease from April 2008.

In March 2010, purses decreased 7.20% from March 2009.

Race days—individual programs at each track—totaled 433 in April, down 2.04% from 442 in 2009.

The year-to-date handle figures hardly constitute a rebound, but they represent improvement, something that hasn't been seen in a while.

Through the first four months of 2010, handle totaled $3,787,816,766, down 8.40% from the same period a year ago. Purses totaled $276,376,452, down 7.33% from 2009, while race days fell 7.21%--primarily because of major schedule changes in January and February—from 1,596 to 1,481.

In comparison, the same figures for April 2009 were down 9.53%, 5.11%, and 0.57%, respectively, from April 2008.

Purses for January-April 2010 were off 12.7% from the same period in 2008, while race days decreased 6.87% for the same period.