July numbers: Handle up, purses down year over year

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Aug. 5, 2020

Commingled pari-mutuel handle on United States Thoroughbred races in July cleared $1 billion, up 16.63% from the same month in 2019, but total purses declined 12.69% year over year, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators released by Equibase Aug. 5.

Handle of $1,098,943,728 for July 2020 came despite 86 fewer race days—individual programs at each track—and 1,628 fewer races compared with July 2019. Average handle per race of course $335,043 marked a 33.05% increase from $251,802 for July of last year.

Purses for July 2020 totaled $90,224,084 compared with $103,342,574 for the same month in 2019. The average purse per race in July 2020 was $27,507, down slightly from $27,616 in July 2019, according to the Equibase statistics.

For the first seven months of 2020, handle totaled $6,154,466,247, down 6.96% from $6,615,017,905 for January through July of 2019. Purses, however, have dropped 35.99%, from $647,344,706 in 2019 to $414,380,742 this year.

Purse accounts have been impacted by the shutdown of casinos—many tracks derive purse revenue from gaming—for three months or more, along with hardly any on-track wagering, which produces the most pari-mutuel revenue for horsemen, after mid-March shutdowns. Advance deposit wagering, which made up the bulk of the $1.098 billion figure in July 2020, returns far less revenue for purses.

The average purse per race for the first seven months of 2020 was $29,210 versus $30,536 for the same period in 2019. The number of races year over year fell 33.08% from $21,199 last year to $14,186 this year.