02/04/2009 12:00AM

Handle falls despite increase in race days

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Despite an 8 percent increase in race days, wagering on U.S. races in January of 2009 fell 1.6 percent compared to the same month in 2008, according to figures released by Equibase on Wednesday.

Wagering on U.S. races was $1,042,526,296 in January this year, compared to $1,059,007,418 in January of last year, according to the figures. Race days were up from 348 in January last year to 376 this year. In addition, January of 2009 included five weekends, compared to four weekends in January of 2008. Handle peaks on Saturdays and Sundays.

On average, bettors wagered $2,772,676 per race day in January this year, compared to $3,043,125 in January of 2008, a difference of 8.8 percent.

Wagering handle has been in a steady decline for most of the last four years. In 2008, wagering on U.S. races declined 7.2 percent compared to 2007, with much of that decline coming in the last six months of the year due to the deteriorating economic conditions worldwide.

Purses distributed in U.S. races during January of this year increased 3.6 percent, from $68,291,153 in January 2008 to $70,653,646.