Updated on 08/04/2014 2:16PM

Handle on U.S. races declines in July


Wagering on U.S. races was down 3.5 percent in July compared with the same month last year, according to figures released Monday by Equibase, as racetracks continued to cut both the number of racing dates and races from their schedules.

Wagering fell from $923.4 million last July to $891.3 million, as race dates contracted 2.5 percent, from 530 in July 2013 to 517 in July of this year. In addition to paring race dates from their schedules, many tracks have been reducing the number of races offered on each racing day, so the contraction in racing opportunities is likely higher than the decline in race dates.

July 2014 had eight weekend dates, the same number as last year. Wagering and race-dates numbers can sometimes be skewed by the number of weekend dates in a month.

All-sources wagering at this year’s Saratoga meeting was down 9 percent through the first 10 days of its meet this year, accounting for nearly half of the total decline in betting, with several days in July not included in the total. Saratoga, which opened in mid-July, has suffered from rainier weather this year than last year, resulting in numerous scratches and races moved off the turf.

Total purses distributed at all U.S. tracks were down 5.7 percent in the month to $103.6 million, reflecting the contraction in racing opportunities. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenue.

With the latest declines, handle on U.S. races and the number of race dates have both dropped 2.0 percent for the first six months of the year. Purses are down 1.3 percent, though the average purse per starter in the United States has jumped significantly over the past 18 months because of declines in race dates and field sizes.