Updated on 10/14/2010 9:34AM

Race days, handle continue decline in Sept.


U.S. live race days continued to plummet in September, contributing to further declines in total handle and purse distribution during the month, according to figures released by Equibase on Wednesday.

Live racing days at U.S. tracks contracted 12.5 percent in September, from 545 last year to 477 this year, as more and more tracks cut race dates from their existing schedules. Although the number of live U.S. races held each year has been steadily declining at a slow rate for the past decade, race days have begun to dip considerably this year as racetracks seek to cut expenses and as they grapple with a contraction in the foal crop that will have its most significant impacts in the next two and three years.

Wagering on U.S. races declined 6.4 percent in the month, from $883.5 million in September last year to $826.7 million this September, a number that is encouraging only because the average amount bet per race day rose compared to the average for last September, from $1.62 million to $1.73 million. As a result, racetracks are retaining more revenue per race day than last year.

Purses declined 9.26 percent in September compared to last year, from $97.5 million to $88.5 million. The average amount distributed per race day rose, from $178,900 in September last year to $185,500 this year. U.S. purses are heavily subsidized by slot machines at many racetracks.

For the year, race days are down 7.4 percent, from 4,660 through September of last year to 4,315 through this September. Handle is down 7.2 percent, from $9.66 billion last year to $8.96 billion this year. Purses are down 5.65 percent, from $825.8 million to $779.1 million.

For 2009, race days were down 2.6 percent when compared to 2008, dropping from 6,093 to 5,934, underlining the acceleration in the contraction this year.