While wagering on U.S. races in 2016 was
flat—up less than 1% compared with 2015—
bettors continue to support a reduced Thoroughbred
That is to say average handle per U.S. race in 2016 improved 2.3%
to $280,408, which is the first time since 2007
that wagering per race has surpassed $280,000.
The $280,408 in average wagering per race is up
18.2% from the decade-low $237,135 wagered per
race in 2011.
Overall handle on U.S. races improved 0.58%
to $10,735,154,543. These numbers as well as the above figures are not adjusted for inflation.
Despite the small increase in
handle in 2016, purses saw a small decline, down less than 1%. Like handle,
the 0.91% decline in purses was impacted by the
continued reduction in total races.
The 38,284 races conducted in the U.S. in
2016 is the lowest single-season total since 37,661
races were offered in 1960.
in part, has followed reduced foal crops. The
estimated 2016 U.S. foal crop of 20,600 will mark
a fifth straight year the crop will not reach 25,000.
The most recent previous time for five straight U.S. foal
crops under 25,000 was from 1967-1971.
National Thoroughbred Racing Association
president Alex Waldrop sees a smaller U.S. Thoroughbred
industry finding its footing.
"The 2016 wagering and purse report suggests
that Thoroughbred racing in the U.S. has stabilized
from the world-wide economic recession of a few
years back," Waldrop said. "A declining foal crop
has challenged the industry to adapt by reducing
races and race days and also encouraged
"It is noteworthy that handle increased in 2016
despite 85 fewer race days. Undoubtedly, these
results also reflect the fact that our champions
like California Chrome, Beholder, Tepin, and
Songbird, as well as a talented cast of 3-year-old
stars headed by Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner
Arrogate, continued to race through the Breeders'
Cup in November."
Racing enters 2017 with some enthusiasm as
rule changes on taxes that would put more money
in bettors' hands appear likely to become reality.
"One additional piece of positive news for the
industry is the Dec. 29 release by the Treasury
Department and the IRS of proposed regulations
that will fundamentally alter the way winning
pari-mutuel wagers are withheld
and reported," Waldrop said. "By
modernizing tax withholding and
reporting to reflect the true cost of a
wager, especially exotic wagers, more
money will now remain in the hands
of our customers who will re-bet most
of those dollars for the benefit of all.
It's an important fix that the NTRA has
spent years advocating for and will
have a positive impact on overall parimutuel
handle from the moment it's
Note: A version of this blog previously ran in BloodHorse magazine and in BloodHorse Daily. I figured I'd make it available in the blog as well.