03/29/2010 12:00AM

Fewer days result in handle dip at Turfway

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Gross handle was down substantially at the winter-spring meet that began Jan. 1 and ended Sunday at Turfway Park, although daily average handle showed minor increases attributable to a shortened weekly schedule at the Florence, Ky., track.

Turfway ran 435 races over 45 dates, racing only Fridays through Sundays in January and February before adding Thursday cards in March. The result was decreases in all-sources handle of 19 percent and in ontrack handle of 24 percent when compared to the same period in 2009, when 619 races were run during 62 dates on a four- or five-day racing schedule.

Gross all-sources handle was $92 million, down from the $113.6 million bet last year, while $5.3 million was handled ontrack versus $7 million in 2009.

All-sources handle averaged $2,044,036 a day, up 11 percent over last year, while ontrack handle averaged $118,035, up 4 percent.

Total purses paid were $5,754,751, down 26 percent from 2009, although the per-day average purse payout of $127,883 was up 2 percent.

Turfway does not charge admission with the exception of Lane's End Day.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said in a Monday release that the 2010 winter-spring meet "was really an experiment, and we will continue to analyze the results against our expectations. While we are pleased to see average daily increases in ontrack wagering and support from out-of-state outlets, the competitive landscape we're up against and the fact we're not permitted to meet that competition head-on continues to make it difficult to invest in our business."

Business at Turfway has been slumping for years, with Elliston and other Kentucky racing officials persistently arguing that riverboat casinos in neighboring Indiana have been a major factor in that slide.