07/19/2010 7:23PM

Lone Star's daily handle takes 21 percent dip


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Lone Star Park reported a small uptick in attendance, but a 21 percent decline in average daily handle on its live races during the 60-date meet that ended Sunday. It was likely its final Thoroughbred season under the ownership of Magna Entertainment, as Global Gaming, which purchased Lone Star's operating assets for $47 million last October, could come up for license approvals at a Texas Racing Commission meeting Sept. 14.

Lone Star handled $1,124,483 a day on its live races from all sources this meet, compared with $1,429,959 during the 65-date meet in 2009. Of that handle, an average of $833,914 a day was bet offtrack, a decline of 24 percent, and an average of $290,569 a day ontrack, down 9 percent. Attendance averaged 6,952 patrons a card, up 1 percent from the corresponding meet in 2010.

Drew Shubeck, president of Lone Star, said because there was a slight increase in attendance, he directly attributes the drop in handle to a decline in the quality of the track's racing product, and the economy.

"It seems like we can lure people out to the track," Shubeck said. "They're spending money on the essential items -- we're up on some packages that we sell, the admissions -- but then once they buy those items, we find that they're wagering a little bit less when they come."

Shubeck said handle on Lone Star's races offtrack was affected by some of the same reasons as the ontrack numbers, and also "because we're not available on all wagering platforms right now."

Lone Star paid out $150,871 a day in purses this meet, down 15 percent from $177,089 last season. The track's field size dipped from 8.7 horses a year ago, to 8.3.

Bret Calhoun, who grew up in Grand Prairie, won his first Lone Star training title with 62 wins. He also topped all trainers in stable earnings, with $1,144,965. Chris Landeros won his second straight Lone Star riding title with 101 wins, and also led all jockeys in mount earnings with $1,097,283. Tom Durant won his third consecutive owner title with a track-record 37 wins. His horses earned $398,726.

Shubeck said for next year, Lone Star is considering a reduced takeout on some wagers, and incorporating new wagers. He also said the track is debating moving from Saturday afternoon racing to Saturday nights following the Belmont Stakes.

Lone Star could be the sole track in Texas to offer a significant Thoroughbred meet in 2011. The state's tracks and its horsemen have been discussing a possible consolidation of race dates in the face of declining handle. One proposal calls for the transfer of some Thoroughbred purse funds to Lone Star to fuel a 60-date season with average daily purses of $230,000. The plan would need approval of the state's racing commission. Lone Star opens its Quarter Horse meet on Sept. 17.