09/05/2016 4:06PM

Handle on U.S. races dips in August


Wagering on races held at U.S. racetracks dropped 9.4 percent in August when compared with the same month last year, according to figures released by Equibase on Monday, but the comparison was weakened by a surfeit of weekend dates in August of last year.

Wagering in August this year dropped from $1.14 billion to $1.04 billion, but August this year had eight weekend dates compared with 10 weekend dates in August of last year. Wagering on weekend dates is typically far higher than on weekdays.

Despite the calendar quirk, adjusted wagering figures for the month still showed signs of weakness. The number of races held this August dropped 5.8 percent, from 4,069 to 3,835, a lower rate of decline than the drop in handle, with average wagering per race in the month dipping 3.8 percent, from $280,904 to $270,143.

Because of the way the calendar set up in 2015-16, wagering in July this year was up sharply when compared with betting in the month last year, by 12.3 percent. Inversely to the calendar imbalance this August, July had 10 weekend dates this year, compared to eight last year.

Still, the August numbers had a significant negative impact on total wagering for the year. While total betting on U.S. races through July was up 2.8 percent, the decline in the August numbers reduced the year-to-year rate to a 1.0 percent gain this year.

Field size for the month dropped 3.5 percent, according to Equibase, from 7.76 horses per race in August last year to 7.5 horses per race this August.

In part because of the calendar, purses distributed in U.S. races in August dropped 11.1 percent, from $121.3 million last year to $107.9 million this year. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenue.