11/04/2008 12:00AM

Betting on U.S. races continues to drop

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Wagering on U.S. races dropped 6.9 percent in October this year compared to the same month last year, although race dates were down 4 percent as well, according to figures released on Tuesday by Equibase.

The wagering figure, which includes all worldwide commingled handle and separate-pool wagering in Canada on U.S. races, fell from $1,209,867,991 to $1,125,935,224, a decline of $84 million. The results were mitigated somewhat by a 22-day decline in total race days at U.S. racetracks during the month, from 535 last year to 513.

On average, using the race dates figures, wagering per U.S. race date was $2,261,435 in October of last year. The average figure in October of this year was $2,194,806, a decline of 2.9 percent.

Purses also declined during the month, reversing a trend in which purses have been up or even with prior periods because of the influence of slot-machine subsidies. Purses declined 3.28 percent, from $128,821,050 in October last year to $124,591,684 this year. Again, the decline in race days factors into the slide, as the average amount of purses per race date was slightly up.

For the year, wagering on U.S. races has declined 5.9 percent, according to Equibase, from $12.6 billion through October of 2007 to $11.9 billion through October this year. Purses are down marginally, 0.45 percent, and race dates are down 1.2 percent.

Wagering on U.S. races has been falling or stagnant for the past three years. However, the rates have accelerated sharply over the past three months in lockstep with deteriorating economic conditions in the U.S. In the third quarter, wagering fell 9.85 percent this year compared to wagering in the third quarter of 2007.