10/05/2016 1:26PM

Handle rises 2.4 percent in September


Betting on races at U.S. tracks rose 2.4 percent in September from the same month last year, while purses distributed at U.S. tracks fell 6.5 percent, according to figures distributed Wednesday by Equibase.

Betting rose from $776.1 million last September to $795.0 million this year, according to the figures. In both years, September had eight weekend dates. The number of weekend dates in a month can significantly affect handle.

The number of races held during the month rose 1.5 percent from September 2015. Though only a slight rise, the number of races held at U.S. tracks has been generally dropping on a month-to-month basis for several years, and the rise this September may be an indication that the figure is beginning to level off.

The average wagering per race in the month rose by just under 1 percent, reflecting the increase in the number of races.

In total, purses distributed during the month dropped from $112.2 million last year to $105.0 million this year. The total may have been affected by the earlier date this year of Labor Day, which is typically the closing weekend for Del Mar in Southern California and Saratoga in upstate New York, two high-profile tracks that are among the leaders in purse distribution. Last year, both tracks ran more dates in September than this year.

Also, the later date of the Breeders’ Cup this year pushed some prep races that were run in September 2015 to October this year, negatively affecting the purse figure. Some tracks, such as Del Mar and Monmouth Park in New Jersey, also cut their purses this year.

The average amount of purses distributed per race day fell 9.4 percent, according to the figures, to $229,578.

For the first nine months of the year, handle is up 1.1 percent, while the number of races is down 2.3 percent. Purses, which are heavily subsidized by casino revenue, are down 1.5 percent.