11/04/2009 1:00AM

Without Cup, October betting plummets

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Without figures from the Breeders' Cup to prop it up, wagering on U.S. races during the month of October was down 17.2 percent compared with handle during October of last year, according to figures released by Equibase on Wednesday. In addition, purses distributed in U.S. races fell 15.6 percent, largely because of the addition of Breeders' Cup purse distributions in the October figure last year.

The declines do not represent an apples-to-apples comparison, because last year's Breeders' Cup was held on Oct. 24-25, while this year's is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday. Commingled wagering on the two cards at Santa Anita last year that included the 14 Breeders' Cup races was $150.6 million, while purse distribution on those two cards was $27.3 million.

In total, handle declined in October from $1,125,935,224 last year to $932,651,648 this year. Although a number of factors, such as predominant weather patterns and number of weekend dates, can influence handle and purse distributions over a one-month period, the influence of the Breeders' Cup statistics had a highly significant effect on the October figures. For example, if the Breeders' Cup handle figures are stripped out of the October figure from last year, the decline in wagering was approximately 4 percent.

Purses fell from $124.6 million in October of last year to $105.2 million this year, a difference of more than $19.3 million. When Breeders' Cup purse figures are stripped out of last year's numbers, purses show an increase of 8 percent.

Race days during October were up 3.3 percent, from 513 last year to 530 this year. That number was affected by additional race days in Indiana. Both race days and purses were positively influenced by additional subsidies from slot machines provided by casinos in Indiana and Pennsylvania.

In September, wagering fell just under 1 percent, a figure that the racing industry greeted warmly because of persistent declines in wagering over the past year. Purses in that month, however, fell 6.1 percent.

For the year, wagering is down 10.9 percent, from $11.8 billion through October of last year to $10.6 billion this year. The total is on course to be the lowest annual handle figure since at least 1997, when total betting on U.S. races was $12.5 billion.

The total amount of purses distributed for the year so far is $930.8 million, down 8.3 percent from the $1.014 billion distributed last year through October, despite an increase in slot-machine subsidies. Race days are down 2 percent, from 5,298 through October last year to 5,191.