Updated on 05/11/2011 5:53PM

Tampa Bay Downs handle increases again

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Average daily handle at the recently completed 90-day meet at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla., was a record $4,572,054, according to figures released by the track on Wednesday, an increase of 9.2 percent over last year’s figure and the latest in a string of meet-over-meet increases that have propelled Tampa into the upper echelon of North American racetracks.

Field size during the meet was 9.11 horses, a slight increase over field size last year and one of the better figures in the country. The figure was aided in part by an 18.5 percent increase in the number of turf races held at the track, from 205 last year to 243 this year. Turf races typically draw more horses, on average, than dirt races.

The increase in average daily handle was made more significant by the closure late last year of New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation, one of Tampa’s biggest simulcast customers. New York City OTB shuttered its 55 branches and its account-wagering operation just before Tampa opened its meet in December.

Tampa reduced the takeout for its pick three, pick four, super high five, and pick six bets from 19 percent to 18 percent for the meet, and a track sponsor, Television Games Network, contributed a $35,000 guarantee to the late pick four. Tampa said that handle for the pick four increased 47 percent over last year’s meet.

Tampa – which had an average daily handle of approximately $2 million a day a decade ago – owes much of its success to the simulcast market. During the meet, average daily ontrack handle was $226,855, with average daily attendance of 3,195.

Gerald Bennett and Jamie Ness shared the trainer’s title, both with 61 wins, with Ness earning purses of $771,756 and Bennett earning $751,761.