08/17/2016 2:50PM

Canterbury's handle up, but revenue falls

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Handle is up, but revenue remains down about three months into Canterbury Park’s 2016 experiment with reduced takeout.

After 50 racing days, through the card last Sunday, Canterbury’s gross handle was $31,226,878, for a daily average of $624,538. Through the first 50 racing days in 2015, gross handle was $29,189,849, for a daily average of $583,796. Canterbury’s total handle is up 7 percent so far this meet, and handle from out of state has increased 10 percent compared with 2015.

But Canterbury’s blended takeout went from 20.5 percent in 2015 to 16 percent this year, the lowest blended takeout rate in the U.S., and so far, the track has failed to compensate for the revenue lost through lower takeout with gains in handle.

“Frankly, we’re a little disappointed,” said Eric Halstrom, Canterbury’s vice president of racing operations. “We were up 16 percent last year. Maybe our expectations were too high.”

Canterbury, a publicly traded company, released its second-quarter financial report this week, and through June 30, revenue from parimutuel handle was off 9.5 percent, though Canterbury raced two fewer days this year during the period than in 2015. In June, a year-over-year decline in average starters per race might have been tamping down betting on Canterbury’s product, but field size has nearly caught up to last year.

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Through Sunday, Canterbury was averaging 7.66 starters per race, 7.47 starters in dirt races, and 8.24 starters in 118 turf races. Last year, the corresponding numbers during a similar period were 7.71, 7.41, and 8.81 in 108 turf races. Favorites have won at a very high 39 percent clip so far this meet.

Halstrom said it still was too soon to pass judgment on the takeout reduction, and that the track would review its takeout policy at the end of the 2016 meet, but he did not commit to Canterbury continuing to offer its current low blended rate in 2016. Canterbury is nearly finished hosting Quarter Horse races, and with the Thoroughbred portion of the Prairie Meadows meeting in Iowa finished, the Thoroughbred population at Canterbury has increased, as it does at this time every summer.

Whether that is enough to produce racing on which a wider swath of the wagering public wants to bet before the season ends Sept. 17 remains to be seen.