Anne M. Eberhardt

Total Handle, Purses Decline in November

Total handle and purses fell in November 2008 compared with a year ago.

Wagering on Thoroughbred races fell almost 10% in November compared with November 2007, Equibase reported Dec. 3 in its monthly “Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators.” Purses dropped more than 2%, but race days increased more than 5%.

Wagering on United States races—worldwide commingled handle and separate-pool handle in Canada—totaled $968,996,614 in November, down 9.7% from $1,073,123,772 a year ago. Purses for November 2008 totaled $83,491,704, down 2.35% from $85,500,574. The number of U.S. race days—live programs at each track—was 465, up 5.68% from 440.

For the first 11 months of 2008, total handle on U.S. races was $12,849,838,581, down 6.17% from $13,694,634,151 from January through November 2007. Purses were down 0.60% to $1,100,021,746, while number of race days was down 0.67% to 5,764.

Monthly declines in handle recently have hovered in the 10% range. Between 2000 and 2007, total U.S. handle has remained above $15 billion; if trends hold, it appears that won’t be the case when 2008 is in the books.

Total handle has increased in nine of the past 11 years. The two years of decline were 2004 and 2005, according statistics from The Jockey Club. The high point came in 2006, when total handle on U.S. races hit $15.94 billion.

The increase in race days is partly attributed to an earlier opening at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana.