06/04/2013 11:55AM

Betting handle in U.S. rises in May

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Wagering on U.S. races in May was up 3.6 percent compared to betting on U.S. races during the same month last year, while race days declined 1.9 percent, according to figures released on Tuesday by Equibase.

The jump in betting and the decline in race days are both positive signals for the racing industry, which has struggled financially since the 2008 recession. Factoring in the decline in race days, handle per race day in the U.S. in May was $2.35 million, up 5.3 percent compared to average raceday handle of $2.23 million in May of 2012.

Total betting on U.S. races in May was $1.20 billion, Equibase reported, compared to total betting of $1.16 billion in May last year. Tracks dropped 10 racing days from the calendar during the month, carding 511 race days compared to 521 last year. The first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, are held in May.

The onset of the recession in 2008 led to a near collapse of the bloodstock market and double-digit declines in the foal crop. The biggest declines occurred in the crops of 2010 and 2011, whose foals are now 2 and 3 years old, leading to pressure on tracks to cut racing days this year in order to maintain competitive field sizes.

Purses distributed in U.S. races during May were $104 million, up slightly from total May purses last year of $103.3 million. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by payments from casinos.

For the year, total wagering is down 0.7 percent, Equibase reported, while race days have declined 3.5 percent. Purses are down 2.1 percent.