01/05/2014 1:44PM

Wagering, purses in U.S. show little movement in 2013

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Wagering on U.S. races and money distributed in U.S. purses in 2013 were both basically even with the 2012 numbers, according to figures released by Equibase on Sunday, while race days contracted 3 percent.

Wagering was up 0.06 percent, Equibase said, to $10.88 billion. This was the second consecutive year that wagering on U.S. races was nominally level with the year prior (when not adjusting for inflation), following four years of steep declines. The high-water mark for U.S. wagering was set in 2003, when total betting on U.S. races was $15.2 billion, a difference of 28 percent from the 2013 figure.

Race days fell from 5,310 in 2012 to 5,143 in 2013, a drop of 3 percent. The number of race days and the number of races held in the U.S. have been falling for the past decade in response to declines in the foal crop, though the rate of attrition for races has not been declining at nearly the same rate as the foal-crop contraction.

Because of the decline in race days, wagering per race day in 2013 was up 3 percent compared with 2012, from $2.04 million per day to $2.11 million.

Purses were down by 0.04 percent, or even with 2012, at $1.12 billion. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenues.

With wagering holding steady or up on a month-by-month basis throughout the year, the racing industry was preparing for positive numbers at year’s end. However, the positive growth rate was nearly wiped out by sharp declines in wagering in December, which had nine weekend days in 2013, compared with 10 weekend days in 2012.

Wagering was down 10.5 percent in the month, from $789.8 million in 2012 to $706.8 million in 2013. Race days in December were down 4 percent, while purses were down 7 percent, according to the figures.