Horseplayers wagered more than $1 billion on U.S. races in July as handle for the month spiked 16.6% compared with the same month in 2019.
In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, advance-deposit wagering platforms helped allow the sport to continue as fans were able to wager on races from home. With that structure in place and more tracks coming online in July, there was a significant increase in handle for the month compared with the same month last year.
According to numbers released Aug. 5 by Equibase, wagering on United States races in July 2020 improved to $1,098,943,728.
More tracks returned to action in July, resulting in an increase in race cards from 300 in June to 398 in July. Still, the July total was down 17.8% compared with July 2019, when 484 race cards were offered. Support for the available racing product has been especially impressive, up 41.8% compared with 2019 to $2,761,165.
For the year to date, handle on U.S. races is down 7% compared with the first seven months of 2019. But bettors are supporting the available races as handle per race day (or card) is up 41.7% to $3,622,405. Keep in mind that racing's biggest wagering day of the year, Kentucky Derby Day, is yet to come after being moved from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September.
The loss of race days has negatively affected purses, which are down 36% for the year to $414,380,742. With more tracks returning in July, the decline wasn't as bad for the month, down 12.7% to $90,224,084. The July decline in purses nearly matched the decline in races, which were down 12.4% to 3,280.
With fewer opportunities to race, field size continued to benefit in July, up 7.1% to 7.62 starters per race. Field size is up for the year 7.7% to 7.97 runners per race.
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