07/10/2008 11:00PM

Total handle drops in second quarter of '08

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All-sources handle in the United States and Canada declined 4.2 percent in the second quarter of 2008, according to figures released by Equibase and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association on Friday, reflecting the impact of widespread blackouts of racing signals during the period.

Handle was $3,837,687,728, down from $4,003,960,415 in the second quarter last year. Handle in the United States and Canada has declined in three of the last four years as the racing industry struggles to maintain its share of the wagering market.

During the quarter, many racetracks had their signals blacked out on account-wagering operations because of disputes between horsemen and tracks over revenue sharing. In addition, the signal from Calder in Florida was blacked out at nearly every out-of-state site because of a dispute with horsemen that was resolved last week.

Despite the declines, purses rose 3.6 percent, from $306,210,835 in the second quarter of last year to $317,235,241. Purses have been growing nationally regardless of handle figures because of subsidies from slot machines at racetracks.

Race days were down marginally, 0.46 percent, from 1,740 in the second quarter of last year to 1,732 in the second quarter this year.