Report Indicates Shift in New York Wagering

More money was wagered in New York on out-of-state races than in-state races in 2003, the first time such a shift has occurred, according to a new report by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

The state agency reported $1.4 billion in total handle on out-of-state races compared with $1.3 billion for in-state races. A year earlier, $1.5 billion was wagered on in-state products, and $1.3 billion on out-of-state races.

Board officials declined to pinpoint a reason for the change.

In all, the total pari-mutuel handle at New York tracks and off-track betting parlors was $2.7 billion in 2003, down from $2.8 billion a year earlier. The total handle figure has hovered between $2.7 billion and $2.8 billion since at least 1999.

The out-of-state wagering exodus was seen most vividly at OTB parlors, which saw simulcasting restrictions lifted for part of the year in 2003. The OTB parlors handled $1.2 billion in bets on out-of-state races, compared with $833 million in in-state betting in 2003.

The in-state number is down sharply from the $1 billion in bets handled in 1999 by OTB facilities. Wagering on out-of-state races that year stood at $871 million.

The board reported total handle at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga--all of which are operated by the New York Racing Association--of $494 million in 2003, down from $528 million the previous year. Live handle fell from $386 million in 1999 to $337 million last year.

Of the NYRA tracks, Aqueduct appeared to fare the worst. Attendance dropped from 679,000 to 554,000, with 11 fewer race dates from 2002 to 2003, while Aqueduct's total handle fell from $230 million to $195 million.

Belmont saw a modest increase in both attendance and total handle, but live handle dropped at both tracks. NYRA's flagship track, Saratoga, posted total attendance of 1,049,000, with handle up less than $1 million to $135 million during the 36-day meet. Saratoga's simulcast import handle jumped from $4 million in 2000 to $19 million last year.

In other statistics in the year-end report by the regulatory agency, the number of post-race drug positives fell from 118 in 2002 to 78 last year. Ephedrine, mepivacaine, and norephedrine were the substances that led the list.