11/05/2013 1:49PM

Wagering on U.S. races up 8.3 percent in October

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Wagering on U.S. races during the month of October was up 8.3 percent, despite a 5.8 percent decline in race days, according to figures released Tuesday by Equibase.

Wagering during the month was $804.3 million compared to $742.7 million last October, according to Equibase. Race days fell from 434 last October to 409 this October, making average handle per race day this month $1.97 million, up 15.2 percent compared to average handle per race day of $1.71 million last October.

The jump is the first significant surge in monthly handle totals since December 2011, when wagering jumped 18 percent compared to the December earlier. In that case, the 2011 monthly total was being compared to the first month following the closure of New York City Off Track Betting Corp., leading to a large decline in volume in December 2010.

There were eight weekend days during both October 2013 and October 2012. Wagering handle is far higher on weekends than on weekdays.

However, the total this year also is being compared to a month last year in which many East Coast players were dealing with the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy for the last week of October, which disrupted power and transportations networks. That led, in part, to an 8.8 percent decline in October last year compared to October 2011.

The jump in October handle this year put wagering totals for the year in positive territory, up 0.6 percent compared to the same 10 months of 2012. Race days for the year are down 3.2 percent, a decline that will have to accelerate over the next two years if tracks are to maintain field sizes in the wake of dramatic declines in the foal crop.

Purses for the month were up 0.3 percent, with the total for purses through the first 10 months of the year up an identical percentage. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by slot machines.