I got sent some numbers today comparing Hong Kong to US racing. As we all know, Hong Kong last year, for the first time, drove more handle for their small, abbreviated meets than United States racing had for the entire year. This year their betting topped $US13B. This is up from 2007, where approximately $US8B was bet, and probably the mirror opposite from the US again, which has seen precipitous handle drops since 2008.
I know what you may be saying, "Pocket, how does that place drive handle without the horses using lasix?", ok, I kid, but that's pretty remarkable. Especially since this business tells us that recessions, and stuff like the Winter Olympics (that Los Al excuse never ceases to make me laugh) can really kick some handle-butt.
All kidding aside, my response to said emailer was pretty simple, "What about Keeneland in the Nick Nicholson era?"
In 2013, Keeneland drove over $302 million in handle to its races. In the last year before Nick Nicholson joined the ship in 1999, the handle was $207 million. Since year one of the so-called gambling "recession" in 2009, Keeneland drove $266 million in handle. The last year of dirt, that some hold to high esteem in terms of driving handle (I think pretty much everyone at the DRF except the night cleaning lady who digs closers) , was $254 million.
Handle at the storied racetrack is up by about a third since 2000 and about 12% since 2008, no matter what has been thrown at it. At the same time, real handles at some places have been cut in half.
This has been achieved with falling foal crops and fewer purse dollars (about $580,000 per day in 2013 versus $620,000 in 2000), too.
I think Nick does not get near enough credit for Keeneland's success as a gambling destination. Keeneland is the closest thing to Hong Kong that we've got and the numbers themselves - on a percentage basis - are not dissimilar.
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