10/07/2002 11:00PM

Turfway numbers decline

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Business was down again at the 22-day fall meet that ended last Thursday at Turfway Park, continuing a disturbing trend that began in the late 1990's when riverboat casinos emerged in nearby Indiana.

All-sources handle averaged $3,067,184, a 9 percent decline from comparable figures from the 2001 fall meet, when 21 programs were run. Ontrack handle averaged $355,507, down 5 percent. Attendance figures do not apply because Turfway began offering free admission this fall.

The decreases come on the heels of double-digit dips last fall, when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks greatly affected business at Turfway and other tracks. Turfway president Bob Elliston, who has been highly vocal in lobbying the Kentucky state legislature to address the riverboat competition, said the latest numbers came as no surprise.

"Considering the severe competition that Turfway faces, we view having ontrack handle numbers about equal to last year's as a good thing," said Elliston. "Obviously, we are concerned with our out-of-state numbers and will continue to examine ways to increase interest in our simulcast product."

On the track, apprentice John McKee was the leading rider with 24 wins, two more than Dean Butler. Bernie Flint, with 11 wins, won his 15th Turfway training title.