By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs combined to do almost $20 million in all-sources handle on Saturday, for what our research indicates is one of their largest early January combined totals of recent years.
The exact total was $19,394,214, based on our review of Equibase charts. Gulfstream did $13,750,166 for eleven races and Tampa Bay did $5,644,048 for ten races.
Yesterday’s all-sources handle numbers for other major tracks included Santa Anita with $13,238,416, Aqueduct with $8,811,163 and Golden Gate Fields with $3,237,626. All of those tracks had nine races.
At Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, both in California, a considerable amount of wagering comes from East Coast bettors after the final races at Gufstream and at Aqueduct.
For each Florida track, yesterday was the biggest all-sources handle day of the 2015-2016 season–which began Nov. 28 at Tampa Bay and Dec. 5 at Gulfstream.
Yesterday, Gulfstream had 117 starters for eleven races for an average field size of 10.6. Tampa Bay had 95 starters for ten races for an average field size of 9.5
The large Jan. 2 numbers continue the trend of what our preliminary research shows as increases for both tracks in handle and field sizes for December 2015 compared with December 2014.
Comparison With 2015
Yesterday’s combined handle total was 25 percent higher than the combined total of $15,490,607 on the first Saturday of January 2015.
On Jan. 3, 2015 the all-sources handles were $10,856,100 for eleven races at Gulfstream and $4,634,507 for ten races at Tampa Bay.
Both days were rain-free at each track. On each day, Gulfstream had five stakes races for 3-year-olds. On each day, Tampa Bay did not have any stakes races.
For both tracks a considerable but undetermined amount of this season’s higher handle is due to the fact that their simulcast signals are again being taken by 23 tracks and their related wagering outlets that are members of the MidAtlantic Cooperative, a group that negotiates simulcast fees for those entities.
Tampa Bay and Gulfstream are among more than a dozen tracks whose signals are distributed by Monarch Content Management, a subsidiary of The Stronach Group which also owns Gulfstream.
From Dec. 1, 2014 to March 27, 2015, amid a dispute over pricing, Monarch did not send the signals of Tampa Bay, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Laurel Park, and several other tracks to members of the MidAtlantic Cooperative. Those locations are primarily in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
In February 2015, Tampa Bay officials estimated that the dispute was costing it up to $350,000 a day in handle.
Components of Handle
All-sources handle is the total of all bets on a track’s races. It includes bets made: live on-site; at other tracks and pari-mutuels; at off-track betting locations and simulcast centers; through Internet and phone advanced deposit wagering (ADW) services; and at Nevada sports books.
Gulfstream does not routinely provide breakdowns on its sources of wagering. Admission is free at Gulfstream, where many fans wander in and out from restaurants and stores at the adjacent Village at Gulfstream Park retail center.
Gulfstream does not estimate attendance. For yesterday, our estimate is that it was about 7,000–somewhat standard for Saturdays during its championship season.
Here are the figures for Tampa Bay Downs:
*Saturday Jan. 2, 2016
Attendance — 3,764
Live Handle — $318,181
ITW Handle — $387,997
ISW Handle — $4,937,870
Total – $5,644,048
* Saturday Jan. 3, 2015
Attendance — 3,521
Live Handle — $296,132
ITW Handle — $338,122
ISW Handle — $4,000,253
Total — $4,634,507
ITW (Intra-Track Wagering) is the amount of bets placed on Tampa Bay races at other horse tracks and at greyhound tracks and jai-alai frontons in Florida.
ISW (Inter-State Wagering) is the amount of bets placed on Tampa Bay races by bettors outside Florida, through all of the sources listed above as part of all-sources handle.
The ISW wagering on yesterday’s Tampa Bay races was 23 percent higher than ISW wagering on its races for the comparable Saturday last year.
Part of the increase is no doubt attributable to the return of wagering from the MidAtlantic Cooperative.
To a larger extent the handle increases at Tampa Bay and at Gulfstream are indicative of their continued growing popularity with bettors around the country.
One of the main reasons is turf racing, which most other U.S. tracks cannot hold during winter months.
Yesterday, Gulfstream had six turf races and Tampa Bay had four turf races–similar to most days thus far in 2015-2016.
Florida Tracks Combined for More Than $19 Million in Handle on Saturday