01/06/2009 1:00AM

Maryland business off sharply


All-sources betting on races at the Maryland Jockey Club's two racetracks, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, plummeted 30.8 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, according to figures released by the MJC on Tuesday.

All-sources handle during 2008 was $363.9 million, compared to $526.4 million last year. The two racetracks held 14 fewer live racing days in 2008 than in 2007, a decline of 7.8 percent.

Average daily handle on races at the two tracks was down 25 percent, from $2.94 million last year to $2.21 million this year. Combined, Laurel and Pimlico held 165 live race dates this year, compared with 179 last year.

Handle on the two tracks' signals in out-of-state locations was down $147.7 million, or 31.4 percent, for the year. Live handle was down $14.8 million, or 26.6 percent.

The Maryland Jockey Club is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., the large racetrack operator. Magna has lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the past four years.

Earlier this year, voters in Maryland passed a referendum that will allow for the installation of 15,000 slot machines at five undetermined locations in the state. Magna has indicated that it will apply for one of the licenses at Laurel Park, which is located midway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.