01/03/2013 2:45PM

Penn National average daily handle rises 20.6% in 2012

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Average daily handle on race cards in 2012 at Penn National Race Course jumped 20.6 percent compared to the same figure during 2011, according to figures released by the track Thursday.

Track officials cited a change in schedule, a slight increase in average field size, and an effort to schedule post times to avoid conflicts with other tracks for the jump. In 2012, Penn National raced on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule for most of the year, compared to a schedule in 2011 of running on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

“There’s obviously a lot of factors that affect it, but I imagine the switch [in racing days] had a lot to do with it,” said Dan Silver, the track’s director of racing operations.

Field size jumped 1.8 percent, from 7.91 last year to 8.05 this year, according to figures provided by Silver. Penn National raced 197 dates this year, compared to 199 dates last year. All the cards were run at night, when competition from other tracks is light.

Although Penn National announced an effort in December to implement a formal policy to avoid running a race within five minutes of a race at any other track owned by Penn National, the track had earlier in the year tweaked its racing schedule to avoid overlaps with other races. A report commissioned by The Jockey Club that was released in 2012 recommended that tracks schedule their races at least five minutes apart from other races.

Average daily handle during 2012 was $1,013,422, compared to $840,461 in 2011, a difference of $172,961, according to the track. Average live handle was up 4 percent, to $57,530, while average export handle was up 21.7 percent, to $955,892.