Laurel finishes slow six-month meet Betting, attendance down sharply from a year ago

March 24, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Laurel Race Course wrapped up its six-month meet of live racing yesterday with some grim business statistics.

Betting decreased 9.2 percent and attendance declined 8.3 percent from a comparable period in 1991-92, although there were 10 fewer racing days partly because of six weather-related cancellations during the past two months.

Track officials said the figures underline the need for the drastic changes they are planning during the next business quarter when racing shifts to Pimlico.

Expanded betting menues, featuring cross-breed and full-card simulcasting from a number of tracks, and the opening of the state's first off-track betting parlor, are anticipated and should boost business, officials said.

During the 30-day Pimlico-at-Laurel phase of the meet, which ended yesterday, the daily average handle of $1,592,784 represented a 7.7 decrease from a year ago and the average daily attendance of 10,341 was a 9.1 percent drop.

Laurel/Pimlico general manager Jim Mango listed the following reasons for the decline in track business: Maryland's state-sponsored keno game; competition from tracks in

surrounding states that offer full-card simulcasts from California, Florida and New York tracks and the recent stretch of bad weather.

After all-time records were set in 1990, Laurel and Pimlico began to see downturns. It is this trend that management hopes to reverse with the expanded betting programs.

"I don't want to over dramatize it, but the time period, from April through mid-June at Pimlico could be the most important in the history of Maryland racing," Mango said. "We will know if we get the big gamblers back and if Maryland remains a player on the national scene. Everyone that works here knows that come the end of April, May and June, we had better make some hay. And I have never seen a work force try harder to get things done. It has taken massive planning and technical changes to initiate it and the cooperation from a lot of diverse groups."

The debut of inter-track wagering between the state's harness and thoroughbred tracks has been moved from April 1 to April 8 due to a change in a union workers vote count on contract modifications caused by the introduction of the multiple-signal simulcasts. Officials of Local 27 of the United Food and %o Commercial Workers Union are to count votes March 30, instead of March 26 as planned.

NOTES: The Dale Capuano stable won three straight races -- six through eight -- on yesterday's closing Laurel card. . . . King Leatherbury ended up as the meet's leading trainer. Edgar Prado was the top jockey. . . . A field of seven has been entered for the opening-day Hirsch Jacobs Stakes at Pimlico tomorrow. Rick Wilson, recent runner-up in the Florida Derby on Storm Tower, has the mount on the Candy Stable's Without Dissent.

Laurel financial comparison

?3

Category ........ 1991-92 .......... 1992-93

Days ........ ........... 123 ....... ....... 113

Total handle ....... $186,034,585 .. $155,126,646

Avg. daily handle .... $1,512,476 .... $1,372,802

Total att. ..... ...... 1,203,962 ..... 1,014,712

Avg. daily att. ..... ..... 9,788 ......... 8,979

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