01/08/2011 3:54PM

NYRA makes up some of the handle lost since OTB shut down


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though it still has a long way to go to recoup the handle lost from the closure of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., New York Racing Association officials have been encouraged by the increased handle through its Internet and telephone wagering platforms in the last month.

From Dec. 8 through Thursday – a period that encompasses 17 live racing days – handle through the NYRA Rewards program has increased 32 percent to an average of $110,011 per day on live racing days compared with the same time frame in 2009, which covered 11 racing days. NYRA has signed up 2,434 new NYRA Rewards customers since Dec. 8, according to NYRA president Charles Hayward.

Overall, ontrack handle at NYRA on its races and those conducted at out-of-state tracks is $979,684, an increase of 16 percent compared with the same time frame last year. Wagering through NYRA’s phone-betting system has increased 44 percent to an average of 78,169 compared with last year.

However, NYRA has experienced a 51-percent decline in intrastate handle – a decrease of $921,800 a day – 90-percent of which can be attributed to the closure of NYC OTB, Hayward said Saturday.

Overall, daily average total handle at NYRA in December was down 8.1 percent compared with 2009, though daily average attendance was up 39.4 percent, most of that coming following the Dec. 8 closure of OTB.

Hayward said the sample of racing dates is too small to draw any real conclusions from, but that he is “mildly encouraged’’ by what the numbers have shown so far.

“We’re encouraged that we’re getting a good chunk of the New York City OTB patrons by coming to the track, the Belmont café and phone and Internet,’’ Hayward said.

Hayward noted that the Manhattan-based channel that shows NYRA races was off air for a week, and that live video-streaming didn’t begin until Dec. 29.