Santa Anita Handle Back Above $1 Billion

Good weather and the introduction of account wagering helped Santa Anita Park exceed $1 billion in total handle for the third time in five years.

The 85-day meet that ended Sunday experienced significant increases in all handle categories. Even Santa Anita's average daily handle statistics rose despite running two more days than last year. Out-of-state wagering grew the most, rising 12.5% on average to $5.02 million compared with last year's $4.47 million average out-of-state handle. Average daily on-track handle increased 2.2% to $2.5 million and average in-state wagering increased 4.8% to $3.5 million.

Track owner Magna Entertainment introduced its XpressBet account wagering service Jan. 25, after Santa Anita had already raced 22 days. The service handled a total $10.5 million during the last 63 racing days, an average of $166,667 a day.

The average daily total handle, including XpressBet wagers, rose 8.6% to $12.05 million compared with last years average of $11.1 million. The total all sources handle for the meet was $1.02 billion, up from $99.2 million a year ago.

"We enjoyed excellent weather and great racing and also benefited from a record 25 pick six carryovers, which positively impacted our handle numbers," said Jack Liebau, Santa Anita's president and general manager.

The only smudge on the meet was a 5.3% decline in average daily attendance. An average 9,930 people attended the races compared with 10,486 a year ago. Track officials attributed the decline in attendance to a shift in marketing strategy. The track focusing its efforts away from the general public and toward group sales and promotions specifically for members of Santa Anita's frequent players program.