One US Track, Once a Week, Ten Races. What's the Handle?

Happy Valley, source HKJC
Pat Cummings is fun to follow and a pretty decent sod on the twitter.

Pat works for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and often, when they're racing, he will pop up the handle figures for the day. He doesn't do it to stick a knife in we North American racing fans (he's too nice a guy for that nonsense), but he shares the score that he and his fellow employees strive towards.

Last week Pat mentioned that the total amount wagered on the opener was about $160M in US greenbacks, for a pretty solid day. In comparison, Derby Day does around $180M, for the biggest day in racing here. Hong Kong usually does somewhere around $110 million US for an eight race card. Higher for stakes cards. It's surely a behemoth.

This chatter promoted DeRosa to chime in with a question: "What would handle be on a 10 race single card in the US?"

For handle geeks (I wear it proudly!) it's a neat question.

What do ten races - likely a lot of stakes, at a place like Saratoga, only racing once a week - with all eyeballs on them, handle here?

Currently with 30 tracks racing across the US, for example, with 2,200 or so betting interests, and 280 or so races, approximately $70M can be generated on a decent weekend day. Belmont Day, all in this year, all tracks, did about $130M, for comparison of a big day.

It's tempting to say racing would do $70-$130M on a card, similar to what Hong Kong does, but I think that's missing a few big points.

i) Big bettors, especially teams, or those who grind, make up (at the low end) 40% of the handle in the nation. They need lots of races and lots of betting interests to bet that kind of money. On a Saturday they have a menu with 2,000 or 3,000 horses to choose from, at myriad tracks. With only 10 races, their handle falls precipitously.

ii) With 70 tracks racing - more if you add harness tracks - they are distribution points who bring people out to wager. 70 McDonald's brings in more gross customers than one, even if 69 of them aren't profitable.

iii) The pure elasticity of wagering (from studies) for the number of races is 0.6 which is about equal to field size changes. If you increase race dates by 10%, handle should go up 6%. The opposite is true with a race date reduction.

Having noted the above, and thought about it, I still don't think I can give you what I think is a good estimation of a daily handle here. I'd likely be off by the GDP of Chad.

Comparisons from here to Hong Kong are, at times, pretty fruitless. It's a different system, and racing is ingrained in the culture. It's a near monopoly in some ways, like the PMU in France. Although they exist, there are fewer casinos, lotteries, and other mediums to draw gambling money from.

But one thing for sure. for an opener to do well over one billion Hong Kong bucks, with no stakes races, or no Derby, or no racing stars, it's pretty darn compelling.

Good luck to Pat and his cohorts at the Jockey Club. May you all have a great meet. 


Cangamble said...

Another problem is that how many horses need to be bred to come up with the 400-600 horses that have enough quality to run in this situation. And what happens to all the rest of the horses and owners of those horses? Hand them over to Donald Trump so he can sell them to Mexico to pay for the wall?

Anonymous said...

...What's the handle?

Well, if it's Canterbury, it ain't much.

Labor Day weekend saw another bloodbath to the bottom line relative to a year ago, with the higher revenue from handle.

Canterbury's total handle was down upward of $200,000 for the holiday weekend, as compared to a year ago.

In order for those pie-in-the-sky predictions you people had to become reality, about handle going up 40-50%, the 3-day handle would have needed to be about a million dollars higher than it was.

So yeah, not much.

Pull the Pocket said...

Canterbury had a good meet. Up around 12% per race. This is especially eye opening with handle nationwide down large in August, along with PRM and Arlington down over 15%.

Congratulations to Canterbury for a great meet under very tough economic conditions.


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