04/25/2005 11:00PM

In-state and rebate-shop betting help boost handle

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Gulfstream Park closed its 86-day meet Sunday with a slight gain in average all-sources handle over last year's meet. All-sources betting rose 1.7 percent, from $9.01 million a day last year to $9.16 million this year.

The handle returns are difficult to compare to last year's figures because of the circumstances surrounding the Gulfstream meet this year. Gulfstream Park's meet was conducted under open-air tents because of an ongoing reconstruction project, limiting attendance and ontrack handle. On the flip side, Gulfstream was one of only a handful of winter tracks that were available to many rebate sites, whose customers include some of the biggest bettors in racing.

In a release, Gulfstream Park said that ontrack handle and attendance declined this year, as expected, but the track did not release figures in those categories. In-state, handle on Gulfstream's races was up 6.3 percent, while handle on races from other tracks was up 50.1 percent, according to the release. Exact figures in those categories also were not released.

Gulfstream officials did not return phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

The 50.1 percent jump in in-state simulcasting handle also involved extenuating circumstances. Under Florida law, intertrack sites cannot take signals without contracting through a live Thoroughbred meet. Last year, intertrack sites used contracts negotiated by Tampa Bay Downs, while this year, the sites used Gulfstream Park. Whichever track distributes the signals is able to count the handle in its figures for the meet.

Out-of-state, handle increased 4.3 percent, from a daily average of $5.94 million in 2004 to $6.2 million in 2005. The out-of-state figures include handle from rebate sites.

Earlier this year, many racetracks, including Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, and Keeneland, cut off rebate shops that were named in an indictment charging more than a dozen individuals with running an illegal gambling ring. None of the shops was charged with a crime.

In addition, several other winter racetracks have limited the availability of their signals to rebate shops over the past three years. That set up Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita, both owned by Magna Entertainment, as the only two high-profile winter tracks available to customers of many rebate shops this year.