08/24/2007 12:00AM

Laurel reports handle dip


A significant takeout cut at the recently concluded 10-day Laurel Park meet in Maryland did not result in any improvement in handle, according to officials of the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns and operates the tracks.

Although MJC officials said that they will not release final handle figures until next week, Lou Raffetto, the chief operating officer of the MJC, said that average daily handle both in-state and out-of-state was down for the meet.

"The end result was that we did not see the kind of increases we had hoped for," Raffetto said.

Laurel cut its effective takeout to 11.4 percent - approximately half the usual blended takeout rate - as an experiment to determine the impact of reduced takeout on handle levels. Economists have generally held that a cut in the price of a wager should result in an increase in handle.

The Laurel meet was only 10 days long, reducing the impact of the circulation of winning bets back into the pools. In addition, bettors could not wager on Laurel's product through Youbet.com this year and the rebate shop International Racing Group because of the expiration of contacts between the two account-wagering operations and Laurel's parent company, Magna Entertainment Corp.

Mike Gathagan, the vice president of communications for the MJC, said that Laurel officials hope to do a complete analysis of the handle figures to determine the true impact of the takeout cut.