05/05/2013 1:51PM

U.S. betting handle up, purses decline during April


Betting on U.S. races in April was up slightly compared with betting in the same month last year, according to Equibase, while purses declined 3.4 percent as subsidies from slot machines continued to dip.

Handle on Thoroughbred races at U.S. tracks was $865.2 million in April, up 0.4 percent compared with $861.8 million in handle in April 2012, according to Equibase. Meanwhile, purses dipped from $84.4 million to $82.0 million, even though race days jumped 2.4 percent, from 371 to 380.

Race days were higher in April despite a prolonged decline in the foal crop that has put pressure on tracks to reduce the amount of races to maintain full fields. For the year, race days have declined 4.0 percent, according to Equibase, despite the April jump.

With the decline in race days, average handle per race day declined 1.7 percent in the month, from $2.32 million per race day in April of this year to $2.28 million in April  2012.

Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenues. In most U.S. states, revenues for casinos have fallen this year as more and more states have legalized casino gambling, leading to increased competition for the gambling dollar.

The slight gain in wagering handle was not enough to offset an overall decline in wagering this year on U.S. Thoroughbred races. According to Equibase, handle has declined 2.0 percent this year, while purses have fallen 3 percent.