09/04/2014 11:40AM

Handle declines marginally in August


Wagering on U.S. races, helped by two days of the Labor Day weekend, was down marginally in August, by 0.4 percent, according to figures released Thursday by Equibase.

The number of races held at U.S. tracks during the month was down 2.5 percent, according to Equibase, while race days were down 1.1 percent. The month of August this year had 10 weekend days, compared with nine weekend dates in August last year, and this year’s calendar included a Saturday and a Sunday leading into the Sept. 1 Labor Day holiday. Last year, Labor Day was Sept. 2.

Purses at U.S. tracks, which are heavily subsidized by casinos, were up 1 percent, according to the figures.

Wagering was down only slightly despite significant declines in betting at Del Mar in Southern California this year and a slight drop in betting at the Saratoga meet in upstate New York, the two most popular meets of the summer. Betting at Del Mar was down 7.3 percent this year, according to the track, while betting at Saratoga was down 2.6 percent.

This was the first month that Equibase began releasing the total number of races held during the month. Racetracks have been cutting both race days and races to manage a sharp decline in the foal crop from 2010 to 2012, which has put enormous pressure on field sizes. Equibase also released the number of starts during the month, a figure that was down 3.7 percent, indicating that field sizes overall are declining.

For the year, wagering is down 1.7 percent compared with 2013. Purses are down 1 percent, race days are down 1.8 percent, races are down 3.8 percent, and starts are down 6.5 percent.