04/10/2013 4:27PM

Fair Grounds handle declines 8.2 percent

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Betting on races at the Fair Grounds 2012-2013 meet declined 8.25-percent compared to the previous racing season, with the New Orleans track experiencing a significantly steeper decline in March, when average daily handle dropped about 18 percent compared to the same month one year earlier.

The 83-day Fair Grounds meet ended March 31, but business figures for the season weren’t available from the Louisiana State Racing Commission until Wednesday. Fair Grounds, as per the policy of its parent company, Churchill Downs Incorporated, doesn’t publicize betting handle.

All sources handle during the meet totaled $222,194,173, down from $242,175,388 during an 83-day 2011-2012 season. Average daily handle this season was $2,677,038 compared to $2,917,777 during 2011-2012. Average daily ontrack handle declined 5 percent, to $149,923 from $157,927, while average daily out-of-state betting on Fair Grounds dropped from $2,598,728 to $2,396,697.

Fair Grounds raced more days late in the 2012-2013 meet than it had the previous season, but the tactic proved ineffective, with average daily handle during March 2013 marginally less than during December 2012, and down more than 18 percent compared to all of March and April 1 in 2012, from $3,326,179 to $2,721,606.

The middle of the Fair Grounds meet was plagued by wet weather, with an unusually high number of turf races, which tend to attract larger fields and generate more betting than dirt races, rained onto the main track during January and February. That trend changed markedly during March, but while the 156 turf races at Fair Grounds this season fell well below the 191 grass races during 2011-2012, it was roughly similar to the 2010-2011 meet and exactly the same as the 2009-2010 meeting.