Slots racetracks: Who are the top performers?
By Matt Hegarty
Racetracks that received subsidies from slot machines in 2010 generated on average only two-fifths of the betting that non-subsidized tracks generated even though they distributed nearly equivalent levels of average daily purses, according to unofficial statistics assembled by Daily Racing Form.
The statistics were developed for 28 subsidized tracks and 37 non-subsidized tracks in North America for 2010 only.
Gulfstream Park outside Miami was the leading subsidized track in average daily betting handle at $6.88 million, followed by Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., ($3.26 million), Fair Grounds in New Orleans ($2.97 million), Woodbine Racetrack outside Toronto ($2.36 million), and Calder Race Course in Miami ($1.93 million). Average handle at tracks with slot machines was $1.28 million, about 40 percent of the average of tracks without slots, $3.26 million.
Woodbine was far and away the leader among subsidized tracks in average daily purse distribution, at $536,789, but its average handle was $900,000 less than the average handle at tracks without slots. The average daily purse distribution at subsidized tracks was $195,524 – at least half estimated to be coming from the subsidies – compared with an average of $200,177 at non-subsidized tracks, a difference of 2.3 percent. Average field size did not vary greatly, 8.48 horses per race at subsidized tracks and 8.02 at non-subsidized tracks.
Perhaps most tellingly, subsidized tracks generated an average of $5.77 in handle for each dollar of purses they distributed while non-subsidized tracks generated an average of $14.35 in handle for each purse dollar, a difference of 249 percent. The ratio of all-sources handle to total purses is one measure of a track’s betting handle, and the accompanying table on page 4 lists tracks by this formula.
DRF assembled statistics in three basic areas – field size, purses, and handle. Though handle figures are maintained by Equibase, the company declined to disclose the figures, citing a provision of its charter that characterizes wagering figures as proprietary information. Equibase is owned by a partnership of the Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group.
DRF used a variety of sources, including state racing commissions, racetracks, and horsemen’s groups, and attempted to verify the handle data by using two sources for each figure. In some cases, DRF could only obtain one figure.
The 28 subsidized racetracks distributed $584.1 million in purses in 2010 compared with $420.7 million by non-subsidized tracks. The figure for subsidized tracks would have been higher if DRF included purse distribution at three tracks that did not neatly fit into the slots or no-slots categories. The three tracks were Monmouth Park, which used a one-time $19 million subsidy in 2010 to double its daily purses for an average of $657,662; and Tampa Bay Downs and Canterbury Park, which receive revenue from card clubs.