Pari-mutuel wagering on U.S. races nosedived in June, dropping by almost 17% compared with June of 2008, according to statistics released by Equibase. Purses fell by more than 10% in June. The number of U.S. race days fell by less than 6% for the month, compared with June 2008.

The steep drop reflects the continuing trend of falling handle at tracks from coast to coast, along with a reduction in racing dates at some major tracks (Churchill Downs and Hollywood Park have cut back from five days per week to four). In addition the June 2008 handled was boosted by a huge day at Belmont Park when Big Brown was going for a Triple Crown. This year’s Belmont Stakes day handle was down about $10 million.

Despite just a 2% reduction in the overall number of racing days, according to Equibase. Purses for the year have fallen by 6%.

If the declines persist, 2009 will be the fifth year in the last six that pari-mutuel wagering on U.S. races has fallen, and the year-end totals may be the lowest since 1998, when just over $13 billion was handled. The record high came in 2003 when nearly $15.2 billion was wagered on U.S. races. Click here for the recent year-end handle figures.

Meanwhile, here in Virginia after 23 days of racing both attendance and live handle are ahead of 2008 marks.

Through Sunday, 41,687 fans had visited Colonial Downs a 7.8 per cent increase. Those fans have bet $2,065,240 as opposed to $1,992,045 in 2008. That’s an increase of 3.6 per cent for on-track handle.

The primary decline – and it’s a big one – is on export handle – money bet on the Colonial Downs’ signal by out-of-state racetracks, OTBs and ADW platforms. That portion of the handle has declined 35 per cent from $19,524,469 in 2008 to $12,594,161 in 2009 – a decline of $6,930,308 or over $301,000 per day.

While some of that decline would logically mirror the national decline for June of almost 17 per cent, a substantial portion of the $6.9 million decline continues to be as a result of Colonial Downs/VHBPA/TrackNet Media dispute. Colonial Downs estimates that the stalemate has accounted for approximately $3.6 million of lost handle.

Racing numbers are also up for the first 23 days. The number of live races run is up from 206 at this point in 2008 to 216 in 2009. Entries per race (10.4) is also up over 2008 (8.8). Scratches are down and starters per raced as increased from 7.8 in 2008 to 8.7 in 2009.