12/07/2017 10:56AM

U.S. handle rises 6.4 percent in November


Total wagering on U.S. races in November was up 6.4 percent compared to the same month last year, according to figures released Thursday by Equibase, a surge that has been attributed to new IRS regulations that went into effect in late September that are highly favorable to horseplayers.

Total wagering during the month, which included the Breeders’ Cup two-day event, was $890.8 million, compared with wagering of $837.3 million, a $53.5 million jump, according to Equibase. The surge occurred despite a 1.3 percent decline in races held, from 2,788 to 2,752. Average wagering per race was $323,700, up 7.8 percent compared with average race handle last November of $300,326.

Equibase has not released month-to-month wagering totals since last year, after the data company decided to release figures on a quarterly basis. In a statement, the company said that it released the November figures because of the IRS rule changes, which have reduced the number of winning payouts requiring automatic tax reporting or withholding by more than 95 percent, according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which lobbied for the changes.

During November, the number of race days at U.S. racetracks dropped 3 percent, a slightly higher rate of decline than the number of races. Average field size was flat, at 8.25 horses per race, compared with 8.29 horses per race last November.

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Both November of this year and November of last year had the same number of weekend dates, at eight each. Wagering on weekend dates is generally far higher than handle on weekdays, to the point where a swing of one weekend date can have a significant impact on monthly handle comparisons.

Total purses distributed at U.S. racetracks in November was $101.8 million, up 0.4 percent. Average purses per racing day distributed during the month was $316,145, up 3.5 percent. Purses at U.S. racetracks are heavily subsidized by casino revenues.

For the year, wagering on U.S. races is up 1.4 percent, at $10.16 billion, compared with $10.02 billion through November of last year, according to Equibase. Race days are down 2.1 percent, while field size is down 1 percent, to 7.68 horses per race.