Anne M. Eberhardt

Pimlico: Average Handle Up, But Total Down

Pimlico reported an increase in average daily handle this year.

A 16.4% increase in average daily handle from out-of-state wagering outlets fueled an 8.9% jump in average daily handle from all sources during the spring meet at Pimlico Race Course.

The Maryland Jockey Club compared this year’s 20-day meet with the first 22 days of Pimlico’s 2008 meet (April 13-May 23, 2009, and April 14-May 24, 2008). Last year, the track actually raced 31 days; this year’s meet was cut short because of a lack of purse money.

Purses averaged $286,585 this year, up from $273,346 last year, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Total purse money paid, however, fell to $5,731,700 for 20 days from $8,473,720 for 31 days.

TJCIS information also shows field size in 2009 averaged 7.6 horses per race, up slightly from 7.54 (for the full 31 days) in 2008.

According to MJC statistics released May 27, average daily total handle on Pimlico races was $6,854,200 this spring, up 8.9% from $6,292,800 for 22 days last spring. Live in-state handle—at Pimlico, Laurel Park, and off-track betting parlors—averaged $560,200 per day, down 11.9% from last year. Total in-state handle, which includes wagering on imported simulcasts, dropped 19.2%, from $1,324,100 last year to $1,069,700 this year.

Average daily out-of-state handle on Pimlico races jumped 16.4%, from $4,968,700 in 2008 to $5,784,500 this year, according to the MJC. Total wagering during the comparable dates in 2008 and 2009 was down about 2.5% this year.

Total attendance at Pimlico this year was 157,823 (an average of 7,891), which includes more than 77,000 on Preakness Stakes (gr. I) day May 16. Last year, for 22 days, total attendance was 203,048, an average of 12,319.

The MJC this year changed its policy and prevented patrons from bringing booze into the infield on Preakness day. This year’s attendance figure was down roughly 40,000 from 2008.

As reported earlier, total Preakness day handle of $86.6 million was the fifth largest in the event’s history and up 18% from 2008. The MJC didn’t report on-track handle figures for Preakness day.