02/20/2014 1:29PM

Fair Grounds cuts overnight purses by 10 percent


NEW ORLEANS – Fair Grounds announced Thursday that it was cutting overnight purses by 10 percent for the rest of its race meet.

The cut comes about six weeks after the track eliminated four stakes and reduced the purses of 12 others, moves that saved the purse account $785,000. It was hoped then that the stakes cuts, necessitated by poor betting handle on Fair Grounds races in November and December, would allow Fair Grounds to maintain its overnight purse structure, but a press release from the track Thursday said sagging handle had led to the second round of cuts, too.

“While Fair Grounds was able to maintain or increase its market share in both slots and video poker, adverse weather conditions and an overall softness in the pari-mutuel industry forced the change,” the release said.

Handle during November and December was down about 17 percent from the previous meet, according to figures provided by the Louisiana State Racing Commission. Fair Grounds, per the policy of its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., doesn’t publicize handle information.

While weather conditions here have not been ideal, the winter of 2012-13 in New Orleans was wetter than this season’s. Fair Grounds has been criticized for having to take so many races off a wet turf course during this meet, leading to shorter fields that generally produce lower handle. But through Wednesday, the track had run 86 grass races, nine more than during the same period in 2012-13.