Soon enough, February handle numbers will be released showing an approximate 6% gain. While people tend to focus on the top end, and get down in the dumps or giddy about the short-term big number (in this case, giddy), it's much more enlightening to look deeper into them.
What we have seen, of late, is the bigger signals doing better, while the smaller ones are stagnating. The big signals are doing several good things, along with an obvious handle boost - racing more races.
Case in point Gulfstream. In February 2015, GPX raced 216 races and garnered $176M in handle. In February of 2016, handle skied to $219M on 240 races. Handle per race rose from $816k to $915k, a nice increase.
The approximate 6% increase in handle for the entire sport from 2015, came almost solely from this Gulfstream handle increase.
Other big signals, concentrating on carding some better racing, have done well, too, though. Aqueduct raced 17 more races and gained almost $18M in handle.
Overall, January and February date adjusted handle for the entire sport is up by about $60 million, or 3.9%. Since January 1st, Gulfstream is up about $62 million, Aqueduct is up $39.7 million.
Keep in mind the above numbers are from a database, and not official Equibase data.
What does this tell us? I think a few things.
i) When we see gross numbers, we have to take them with a grain of salt, because the make-up of industry supply is changing. We're not comparing apples to hand grenades, but we are comparing apples to a lightly less appley fruit.
ii) Big winter signals like Gulfstream and Aqueduct are working hard at their product and should be commended. I don't think you'll find many tracks that fly Serling down to do commentary, or spend so much on their signals, or spend time in the race office carding better fields like GP does. Money is pivoting into them.
iii) There is money on the sidelines for bettable horse racing. i.e. if you give people something exciting and worthwhile to bet, they'll bet.
We're not seeing industry "growth" here, in the true sense of the word. But I think we're seeing a maturing industry when it comes to carding races, racedate distribution, and other intra-racing measures.
Comparing two months from this year to two months to last year, as I have done above, has its own pitfalls. We'll see if these are trends, or simply blips, in the coming months.
Enjoy your day everyone.