10/30/2001 1:00AM

OTB boycott hurts Keeneland


Handle from all wagering sources was down significantly at the fall meet that ended Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., primarily because of the decision by New York OTB not to accept wagering throughout the meet.

Total handle on the 17-day meet was $88.4 million, down from $99.5 million for the corresponding 16-day meet in 2000. The daily average handle of $5.2 million represents a 16 percent decrease.

New York City OTB, which handled $8.5 million on Keeneland last fall, did not offer Keeneland to its vast audience because Keeneland lowered its takeout on all bets to 16 percent, an industry low. OTB officials said its profit margins were being squeezed too low.

For the same reason, a consortium of Mid-Atlantic racing states also did not take Keeneland for the opening three-day weekend but relented for the remaining 14 days after a new, undisclosed agreement was reached with Keeneland.

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said the racing public "was very supportive" of the reduced takeout.

"However, it's going to require further analysis before we can determine the full economic impact of the reduction. Regrettably, one of our most important outlets, New York OTB, chose not to simulcast our racing and pass the savings on to its many customers," he added.

Meanwhile, Keeneland's ontrack business remained virtually static from last year, with average attendance of 12,244 down slightly and average handle of $1,515,845 up slightly.

Also, per-day purses totaled nearly $10.8 million for a record daily average of $635,265.

In racing action, Pat Day, Dale Romans, and Ron McKee were the leading jockey, trainer, and owner, respectively.