08/06/2012 8:50AM

Betting in U.S. declines sharply in July

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Wagering on U.S. horse races plummeted in July by 7.4 percent, nearly erasing the encouraging gains made throughout the first six months of the year, according to figures released by Equibase.

Total wagering on races held at U.S. tracks, including international simulcast handle, dropped from $999.0 million in July last year to $925.5 million this year, according to the figures. This year’s July included nine weekend days, while last year’s July included 10 weekend days.

The decline nearly matched a 5.4 percent drop in race days held during the month. U.S. tracks held 557 race days this July, compared to 589 race days in July of last year, a partial reflection of the pressures being exerted on tracks by the inability to put on competitive cards of races with full fields because of a decline in the foal crop.

Purses also dropped on a month-to-month basis, declining from $110.7 million in July of last year to $107.8 million in July this year. Because the drop did not match the drop in race days, purses per race day increased. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by revenues from casinos and, this year, purses at New York tracks are up approximately 20 percent because of supplements from a casino that opened at Aqueduct late last year.

Due to consistent gains throughout the first six months of the year, handle had grown during 2012 for the first time since the recession took hold in 2008. With the latest July declines, handle is now up 0.9 percent for the first seven months of the year, while race days are up 0.5 percent. Purses are up 6.2 percent.