Wagering on U.S. racing was essentially flat in January 2014 on a year-over-year basis, and the purses paid by US tracks were also flat, according to Equibase.
Overall, more than $800,500,000 worldwide was wagered on races run in the United States. That represented a decline of about a quarter of one percent versus January a year ago. Similarly, purses offered at US races were also essentially flat, rising 1.35 percent to just more than $67 million.
Race days, however, rose, with 305 offered this year versus 292 a year ago. That was an increase of nearly 4.5 percent and came despite tough weather that caused numerous cancellations in the East.
Annual handle hit its peak in 2003, when more than $15 billion was wagered on US racing, according to Jockey Club figures. It has declined steeply since with only occasional — and minor — blips. Overall, handle fell nearly 30 percent between 2003 and 2012, dropping to less than $11 billion.
The number of races has experienced an even longer downward trend. From more than 74,000 races contested in 1989, that number fell to 45,086 in 2012 — a drop of of more than 39 percent.
Purses grew about eight percent overall between 2000 and 2012 — a number easily outstripped by inflation.