02/04/2012 2:03PM

United States handle per race day rose in January when compared to 2011

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Wagering on U.S. races during the month of January declined only slightly compared to wagering during January of last year, according to figures released by Equibase on Saturday.

The decline, 1.1 percent, compared favorably to a larger 4.55 percent decline in race days during the month, meaning that handle per race day rose compared to the same metric last year. According to Equibase, total handle on U.S. races this January was $818.7 million, or an average of $2.60 million per day, compared to $827.8 million in January of last year, or average of $2.51 million.

With the exception of an extraordinary jump in December 2011, handle on U.S. races has been dropping precipitously for the past three years. The January figure is further encouragement that demand for racing has bottomed out, coinciding with generally encouraging figures for the overall economy.

However, the improvement is mitigated by the fact that New York City OTB closed last December, depressing handle figures for the winter months. Since the closing, many regular customers of the OTB have found different outlets for betting. 

Purses, which are heavily subsidized by slot machines, rose 2.75 percent in January compared to the same month last year, according to the Equibase figures. This January, the New York Racing Association began applying subsidies for the first time to its purses due to the opening late last year of a casino at Aqueduct racetrack.