07/23/2006 11:00PM

Nationwide handle and purses up

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All-sources handle on North American Thoroughbred races in the second quarter of 2006 was up marginally compared to the second quarter last year, and purses in the quarter increased 3.6 percent, according to statistics released on Monday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase.

Handle in the quarter was $4,013,729,721, an increase of 0.56 percent compared to the second quarter of 2005, according to the figures. It was the second quarter in a row in which betting on North American races has increased. Before 2006, handle had declined marginally for two years in a row.

Purses distributed in the quarter were $303,962,900, compared to $293,289,086 in the second quarter last year. Quarterly purse distributions have increased several times over the past several years at a faster rate than handle, and much of that growth has been attributed to revenues from slot machines at racetracks.

The number of racing days in the quarter nearly matched the rise in handle, increasing 0.57 percent, from 1,766 to 1,776.

Though the NTRA and Equibase do not gather detailed data on the quarterly numbers, Eric Wing, a spokesman for the NTRA, said on Monday that the relative strength in the rise of purses compared to handle in the second quarter of 2006 "is more than likely a function of slots enhancements to purses."