U.S. pari-mutuel handle falls again in May, this time by nearly 8%

by | 06.04.2011 | 9:20am

Wagering on U.S. continued its downward spiral in May, with a decline of 7.80% from May 2010. Unlike several previous months, however, purses also declined though at a slower pace. Both declines in handle and total U.S. purses were exceeded by the drop in the number of race days, so the average bet per race day and average daily purses will show slight increases in May.

According to Equibase, a total of $1,163,454,383 was wagered in May, a decline of 7.80% from the same month in 2010 when $1,261,814,872 was bet. Purses dropped by 4.35% in May, from $100,348,921 to $95,983,896.

The number of racing days declined by 9.59% from May 2010 to May 2011, from 563 to 509.

Year to date, handle has fallen just over $400 million, from $5,049,378,245 in 2010 to $4,639,320,277 this year, a decline of 8.12%. Purses, fueled by slots subsidies and increases in California from higher takeout on certain wagers, have crawled upward by 2.33%, from $376,779,303 in 2010 to $385,543,651.

Live racing days in 2011 have decline 5.19%, from 2,044 in 2010 to 1,938.

Barring an unexpected turnaround, by year's end U.S. handle on Thoroughbred racing will have fallen for the sixth consecutive year and will be at its lowest level since the mid-1990s. There appears to be no concerted or coordinated effort by industry leaders to address the issue.

  • Fred

    But the NTRA is improving its PR efforts!

  • CG

    Raise the takeout. That’ll fix things.

  • steve

    The takeout isn’t high enough.

  • I wish at some point when Handle figures are released they are broken down by Track Grade levels.
    For example – Grade levels 1-4 are based on Total handle with the highest handle tracks listed as Grade 1…this way everyone can evaluate EACH Grade level tracks performance ….like NY tracks,So Cal tracks,Gulfstream Park,Churchill Downs,Keeneland as Grade 1 level tracks.

    I just think lumping Grade 2, 3 and 4 level tracks into the Final figures is misleading unless you also separate the Grade levels to present a much more clearer picture of the industry.

    The NCAA release figures based on Division 1,2,NAIA,etc.and I have yet to read where they COMBINE all those figures into one absolute number……they ALWAYS separate the Divsions.

    Maybe this would be a nice project for the NTRA.

  • huncher1

    No problem Del Mar just raise the takeout again. This is how laywers run racetracks

  • ITP

    “barring an unexpected turnaround”

    That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

  • Charli125

    Incredibly CA is responsible for over 185 Million of that 400 Million drop off.

    It’s all good, I see Del Mar is running an add in the sidebar…”cool as ever”.

  • Oneofmanylemmings

    TOC!! TOC!! TOC!! I’m surprised that the article by the TOC’s main stooge, Little Ray Paulick, didn’t list all the accomplishments of the TOC so all us lemmings can have a bit of hope. Latest word is that Hollywood wanted to try a new wager on its late Pick 4 but its in a holding pattern because of those progressive thinkers at the TOC.

  • Frank

    People just don’t want to accept the fact that the economy is in free fall. Typical of a gambler, the mindset is to look for an excuse for losing — takeout. This article PROVES that wagering is down across the country. You will find that the FEW tracks that do show increases ARE SUBSIDIZED by Casino’s, then making it possible to offer lower take out, BUT, not improving the GAMBLERS chance of winning. A gambler does NOT understand that winning is an ATTITUDE, a state of mind, as much as is just wagering/betting.
    One thing that I think this article proves is that maybe society is a little smarter than given credit for. People are not gambling with short funds that are needed to live on— a rule that is NOT necessarily followed by the gambler. Tracks are going to have to live with decreased handle as long as the economy is in a down/negative condition!!
    It would be interesting to see the difference in handle, from last year to this year, on big race days, ex.— Kentucky Derby; S.A. Handicap; Hollywood Gold Cup; Travers; Suburban; Louisiana Derby; Oaklawn Handicap — to start with. Also, it would be interesting to see total handle on Quarter Horse Racing for the last 5 years.

  • CG

    Hey Frank, handle was falling when the economy was going up.
    Secondly, California is responsible for half the loss. Do they do half the nations handle?

  • Toast

    In this economic environment you’re doing GOOD if your business is off 10%…I’m surprised it was only down 8%

  • Concerned observer

    Anyone with a background in business or science looks for relationships in the data. This relationship continues. Less racing,results in less betting, resulting in less purses.
    Last year (12 month data)it was the same: races down 7%, betting down 7%, purses down 6% (rounded data). May 2011 same trend Races down 10%, Betting down 8%, while purses up 2%..almost all due to slots subsidies. Today about 40% of all purses are slots subsidies.
    Smart people study the data.
    When will the people that say we need less racing, learn that when we have less racing, the bettors do not bet the same total amount on the fewer remaining races?
    The same is true of the “we need higher quality racing argument” the data shows that most high quality stakes races do not generate enough handle to even pay the purse, leaving nothing for the track revenue.
    The data is quite clear and consistent.

    We are playing into the casinos hand. Keep cutting race days and soon the casinos will only have to hold a very limited number of races with high subsidized purses. And how long will that last, before that fades away too?

  • Charli125


    What you say about the slot fueled tracks makes sense, unfortunately, it’s not true. Slot fueled tracks have some of the most erroneous takeout in the business. I think it comes down to them really not caring about handle because they have slots.

    The tracks that showed increases did some right things. Tampa was up, no slots there, just good racing, low takeout, and an overall product that the bettor loves. Keeneland was also up, for the same reasons(despite some people hating polytrack).

    To blame it on the economy is taking the easy way out, and it’s simply not true.

    Also, if you want to compare handle on specific days, just go to Equibase – Results.

  • voice of reason

    we need more alphabet organizations who can place a smoke screen between the do-nothing, change-nothing leadership of the sport and the hope of any real improvement.

  • Jerry Jam

    Memo to the “Leaders” of Horseracing………….

    All of you fools need to understand basic economics and realize that increased takeout equals decreased profits!!!


    P.S. The answer is not BETFAIR BRACKPOOL’S Exchange Wagering Plan either!!!!!!!

  • farmrose

    Prices go UP interest goes way,way down. How idiotic can the industry brains be? Is this a suicide watch party? Sure smells like it.

  • Bob Hope

    “There appears to be no concerted or coordinated effort by industry leaders to address the issue.” or at least attempt to understand the cause and effect!

    Obviously Concerned Observer is having a very difficult time understanding the sport and why we race! “the we need higher quality racing argument” the data shows that most high quality stakes races do not generate enough handle to even pay the purse, leaving nothing for the track revenue.
    The data is quite clear and consistent.” Please call your doctor asap!

  • huncher1

    I want the fig ajusted for inflation over the last say 15 year and we are down size. Never see the inflation numbers

  • Ray Paulick


    Why do you keep using different anonymous names? Why not use your real name? What are you afraid of?

  • Ken Woodall

    Equibase has bad news- those are the same people who cannot figure out the newbies see 9-1 9-2 9-5, 7-1 7-2 7-5, 5-1 5-2 fractionalized odds and do not bet. Those numbers rather than 20.0 11.0 5.6, etc. as tote, m/l, adw, and program odds! It only takes 1 top entity like Equibase or Stronach’s AmTote to see the light to get the ball rolling with public draw strategies. license plate frames, coupons for 1st timers, coupons for racehorse owners’ off track businesses, student track photog for the day, H.S. senior carreer day etc. etc.

  • Yep, I agrre with the earlier comment. The new VP of Communications will fix things with some great spin. Meantime, bad racing product everywhere except NY. And, the good old Daily Racing form keeps gigging the betters $7 bucks for a Saturday edition that carries one or two tracks a horse player might be interested in. Then, say Hollywood is not included in one edition, the betting fans have to shell out another $7 bucks or buy a track program. What a bunch of garbage.

  • tonyaz

    The sport is doomed. Industry powerhouses and leaders don’t get it. LAT at Churchill Downs on Breeders Cup Day was a prime example of how the PLAYER/FAN/SUPPORTER gets screwed royally and nothing becomes of it. Add in the doping of horses/corruption and its no secret why racing will continue to fail and not attract new supporters. And hey- why not beg for more slot machines and continue to raise take outs as well. I have never laughed harder in my life.


  • Bobcott Bob

    I boycott Ca racing. In doing so, I also do not play other tracks in that time slot. Big Ca races brought me to the races, not any more. The takeout increase in Ca is costing ALL tracks handle decreases.

    Dutrow is way better for the game than CHRB.

  • The Takeout is Too Damn High

    The tracks do not compete against each other. Too dumb or too scared. Shake things up or you will all lose. The coming horse shortage will force changes. We bet 13 billion with outrageous takeout. What would it be if we actually had a chance to win? Run your business like a business.

    Lowing takeout on pick 5 – LOWER ALL TAKEOUT!


    I wish I had the correct answer for all of us, but I don’t. Therefore, I am phasing out, I know to some this is no love lost. Soon we will all be phasing out. THEN WHAT??

    ONEOFMANYLEMMINGS: I don’t dispute you fire and hope for better things, but, please, MAN UP and use your real name, cowards are not respected. Your opinion must be respected, however, your cowardness is not.

  • MIKE

    Gulfstream is the only place that is reversing the trend

  • MIKE

    Roger is correct …Need to seperate the Major Leagues from the Minors

  • David-LV

    I guess it is time to raise the takeout again.
    There are a lot of mental midgets running this game.

  • Google Act 71

    See Parx results yesterday and the myriad of 1/2 JC Guerrero horses and you see why nobody wants to bet anymore.

  • B Ryan

    Frank – here are the QH handle numbers in the U.S. for the past five years. Obtained from AQHA

    2010 $288,339,679
    2009 $324,295,652
    2008 $328,677,714
    2007 $362,846,406
    2006 $342,201,573

  • TheTimesTheyAreAChanging

    Handicapping the races takes too much time and brain-power. This generation is looking for no thought and instant gratification. That’s why the slots are such a huge success. Doubt that racing would survive even with a more fan friendly take-out. They just don’t have the time, patience or intelligence.



  • Billy B

    How do you expect the handle to go up without NYC OTB.

  • caroline

    Is there a source link for this (equibase?) article?

  • This is way more helpful than anything else I’ve loekod at.

  • Always the best conntet from these prodigious writers.

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