03/29/2004 1:00AM

Oaklawn raises daily purses


Bolstered by across-the-board increases in attendance and handle, Oaklawn Park has increased overnight purses $1,500 a race, retroactive to Saturday. The track has also signed a new four-year contract with the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The contract, which runs from from Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2008, governs such issues as simulcasting and dates the stable area is open.

Oaklawn has averaged 11,131 patrons a day through Saturday, the first 45 days of the meet, a 22 percent increase from the corresponding dates a year ago. The strong draw has lifted the ontrack handle on Oaklawn's races to an average of $953,574 a day, up 20 percent from last year.

Offsite, handle on Oaklawn's races is up 4 percent to an average of $3,124,268 a day.

Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn, called this year "one of the best seasons we've had, going back to the mid-1990's."

Jackson said the track has also seen a 62 percent increase in handle on Instant Racing, an electronic parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. So far this meet, $13.1 million has been handled on the game.

From all sources, including incoming simulcasts, handle has averaged $4.7 million a day, which represents an 11 percent increase from last year.