Wagering handle continues downward trend in October
Wagering handle on the Breeders’ Cup was down in 2023. But that’s the least of horse racing’s worries at the moment.
Of much greater significance: handle is down nationally nearly 5% so far in 2023 versus the prior year, and it’s been even worse than that in each of the last four months. In October, national handle was just shy of $819 million, down more than nine percent versus last year’s $903 million October.
The difference is worse than it appears. Had handle merely kept pace with inflation, the October figure would be nearly $950 million. That means that handle for the month was nearly 14 percent lower than it needed to be merely to keep pace.
In only one month this year has handle been ahead of last year. That came in March, when it rose 2.14% to $962.7 million.
The trend has been particularly noticeable – and troubling – in recent months. Wagering handle was down about 6.7% in July, 7.3% in August, and 5.9% in September before last month’s beating.
The culprits are many. Increased competition for the gambling dollar, with sports betting quickly coming online virtually everywhere to go with widespread casino gambling, is one obvious challenge. The public’s perception of the sport and the many high-profile breakdowns pose another.
Many bettors point to weaknesses in the core gambling product as another problem. Takeout is widely considered too high, a problem exacerbated by so-called jackpot wagers, which only pay to a single winner. The sport’s sluggishness, if not outright failure, to move towards penny breakage hurts, too. And the increasing presence of computer-assisted wagering in the pools harms retail bettors.
Though still far below its heyday – North American handle reached nearly $16 billion in 2003 – wagering had ticked up a bit in recent years, reaching a little short of $13 billion last year. This year, though, may end that trend.
NATIONAL ECONOMIC INDICATORS YEAR TO DATE THROUGH OCTOBER
|Indicator||YTD 2023||YTD 2022||% Change|
|Wagering on U.S. Races*||$9,948,872,962||$10,439,976,550||-4.70%|
|U.S. Purses (Available)||$1,097,812,797||$1,103,251,147||-0.49%|
|U.S. Purses (Paid)||$1,052,378,367||$1,062,160,669||-0.92%|
|U.S. Race Days||3,385||3,555||-4.78%|
|Average Field Size||7.35||7.23||1.66%|
|Average Wagering Per Race Day||$2,939,106||$2,936,702||0.08%|
|Average Available Purses Per Race Day||$324,317||$298,779||8.55%|
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