01/16/2008 12:00AM

Hawthorne handle slightly down

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The fall-winter meet at Hawthorne offered a measure of stability based on handle figures recorded during the season, but the track showed no signs of reversing generally downward business trends, especially ontrack betting on Hawthorne races.

Hawthorne's meet concluded last Sunday, Jan. 13, a two-week extension over typical fall-winter meets, making direct comparisons between 2006 and 2007 dicey. In general, though, betting on Hawthorne across the country stayed about the same, while ontrack handle on live racing declined about 7 percent from 2006.

Using figures for 75 dates through Dec. 31 in 2006 and 72 dates by year's end in 2007, total average daily handle on Hawthorne races fell about 1 percent, from $2,785,104 last season to $2,739,323. Ontrack betting on Hawthorne races, which earns by far the most per-bet money for the track, declined some 7 percent, from an average of $148,901 to $138,463 in 2007. Hawthorne's average daily handle on out-of-state simulcast races also declined in 2007. It's not just that the same patrons are sending their money elsewhere, but that less and less money is being handled at Hawthorne every year.

But handle during the 10 days of January racing showed sharp declines from the rest of the meet: Ontrack handle on live races dipped to $121,451 per day, while the average total fell to $2,283,296.