07/11/2011 8:10AM

Lone Star business strong ontrack


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Lone Star Park closed out its 52-date meet on Sunday with a 5 percent decline in all-sources average daily handle on its live races, but a 4 percent gain ontrack and a 10 percent jump in attendance. The track changed hands during the course of the season, which began April 14, with Global Gaming Solutions purchasing its operating assets from MI Developments in deal that closed May 16.

Lone Star handled an average $1,064,840 a day on its live races from all sources this meet, compared to $1,124,483 during the corresponding 60-date season in 2010. An average of $302,187 was bet ontrack, up 4 percent from last year, and an average $762,653 was bet offtrack, down 8 percent.

“Obviously, national handle on horse racing is declining year over year,” said Drew Shubeck, president and general manager of Lone Star. “It’s disappointing for us that handle would be down when we’re up so sharply in attendance. But that’s just the nature of the business these days.”

Attendance this meet averaged 7,621 patrons per program, up from 6,952. Shubeck said attendance figures were driven in part by a concert series. The track drew more than 107,000 patrons for seven post-race concerts at Lone Star.

“Live attendance and live handle are the things that you can most control locally, and we did that through entertainment, through customer service, and through putting out a product with full fields that customers feel is worthy to make bets on,” said Shubeck.

Lone Star averaged 8.9 starters a race, up 7 percent from the 8.4 average in 2010. Purses this meet averaged $161,719 a card, which was up 7 percent from $150,871. Shubeck expressed concern, however, that purses could be lower for the Thoroughbred meet in 2012 as Texas has no account wagering or alternative gaming supplementing purses at its tracks.

“Right now, the way things are, I would say we’re looking at decreasing the average daily payout for next year by about 10 percent, the purses,” he said. “It could be less than that.

“We want to offer more prize money to our horsemen. We know the major reason we can’t do it is because people can sit in their homes and they can wager on races and we don’t get any commission for that because it’s illegal in Texas.”

Residents of Texas have access to online betting accounts, but they cannot bet on Texas tracks if they have a Texas address attached to that account, said Brian Pochman, media relations manager for Lone Star.

Jockey Cliff Berry won his fourth Lone Star riding title with 66 wins and mount earnings of $1,149,889. Bret Calhoun was the leading trainer for the second consecutive year at Lone Star, with 50 wins and stable earnings of $1,014,139. He won at a 41 percent rate. Tom Durant claimed his eighth Thoroughbred owner title, with 18 wins and earnings of $239,025.

Wasted Tears, winner of the Grade 3, $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff, was voted horse of the meet. She was based at Lone Star.

Global Gaming has planned a series of improvement projects at Lone Star now that the meet has ended, beginning with a complete renovation of the track’s simulcast facility.

Lone Star will open for a 26-date Quarter Horse meet on Sept. 16.