06/04/2016 11:50AM

Wagering on U.S. races drops 4 percent in May

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Wagering on U.S. races in May fell nearly 4 percent on a sharp decline in the number of races held at U.S. tracks during the month, according to figures released by Equibase on Saturday.

Wagering during May was $1.22 billion, down 3.95 percent from wagering of $1.27 billion during May 2015. This year, May had nine weekend dates, while last year, May had 10 weekend dates. Handle on weekend dates is usually far higher than on weekdays.

Although wagering was down for the first time in five months, the number of races held at U.S. racetracks dropped 12.3 percent during the month, far outpacing the decline in handle. As a result, average handle per race in the month was up 9.5 percent, from $304,031 last year to $333,025 this year.

Purses distributed in U.S. races during the month fell 9.4 percent, along the lines of the drop in races held. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenue.

For the year, handle is up 2.1 percent, according to Equibase, while the number of races has declined 5.5 percent. Racetracks on many circuits have been paring races from their schedules over the past 18 months to counter a sharp decline in the foal crop from 2010-12, which has put pressure on field sizes.