Santa Anita executives went on the offensive over the weekend, releasing figures showing the handle decline isn’t as bad as numbers bandied about in discussing a horseplayers’ boycott suggest. Art Wilson reports:
While cold, hard figures show Santa Anita’s overall handle was down 17 percent through Thursday, track officials contended Saturday their handle was down only 8 percent if you use “comparable days” rather than “calendar days.”
According to Santa Anita director of mutuels Randy Hartzell, it’s “not fair,” for instance, to compare opening weekend last year to the meet’s first two days this year (something I brought up, somewhat in jest, last month). Handle on comparable days totals $97,086,816 for 12 days of racing this year, said Hartzell, down from $105,784,974 last year; that compares to an overall total of $79,085,032 this year, down from $95,191,018 last year.
I asked Wilson the source of the article’s totals, and he replied that the numbers are derived from DRF data, not the CHRIMS data recently referred to by Scott Daruty on the Paulick Report, which gave rise to questions about how the track’s total handle figures are determined. “I am told by more than one person (Santa Anita and the CHRB) that according to CHRIMS daily average handle is only down about 8.2%,” wrote a California bettor seeking an explanation of the differences in an email I received this morning:
If that is true then Equibase and DRF are putting out false handle numbers to the public and have been for years…. How do DRF and Equibase come up with the handle numbers they disseminate? Can someone from Equibase and DRF respond to this please?
Good question. But — and I write this as someone who would also like to know how the figures are derived and their accuracy confirmed — it’s a tangent here. I mean, hey guys, you’re arguing about how much your handle is down. Your handle is down, at the same time that Tampa is booming and Gulfstream is reporting gains. Aqueduct isn’t up, but that’s because NYRA was especially hard hit by NYC OTB’s closure, and they’ve admirably met that challenge so far by treating it as an opportunity to cultivate new customers, take over the OTB TV channel, and get live streaming video on the NYRA Rewards site.
Santa Anita’s handle is down, and track executives are debating by how much? Instead of admitting that customers might have a point — that maybe the product is overpriced, or not all that enticing — and considering how they might respond positively to reverse the slide, they’d rather defend how they’re running the business. The way things are going, that’s right into the ground.
Through Sunday, on-track attendance at Santa Anita is down 9 percent. Total all-source handle is down $11.5 million, a decline of 13.4 percent.
On-track and intra-state (within California) handle is down 7.8 and 6.7 percent, respectively. The most significant loss is in inter-state wagering, which has fallen 19 percent.
The trend: After the first seven days of racing at Santa Anita, average handle was down 18%, out-of-state handle down 21.9% over the previous year. After the first two days, total handle was down 26.2%, out-of-state down 32.3%.
Things are going great at Gulfstream: Five days in, total handle is up 17.2%.