Inter-track simulcasting gets out of gate quickly

April 23, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Maryland's new inter-track betting system, linking the state's thoroughbred and harness facilities into one daily commingled wagering operation, got off yesterday to an encouraging start, officials said.

With little or no advertising or promotion, 1,023 fans showed up at Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track in Prince George's County, and bet $137,193 on the 10-race Pimlico Race Course thoroughbred card.

The operation at Rosecroft went smoothly, and business there didn't seem to significantly cut into the handle at the Laurel Race Course simulcast center, about 25 miles away. Laurel handled $442,073, and the daily betting handle at the site of the live Pimlico race card was $551,936.

Although the total handle of $1,131,202 was down from last year's figure on a comparable day, Pimlico/Laurel operator Joe De Francis said, "The key thing is that we kept the 55 percent to 45 percent ratio in betting handles between Pimlico and Laurel, which means that a good portion of the Rosecroft handle was new business."

On the harness side, where the Rosecroft live races and the full-card simulcast from The Meadowlands in New Jersey was televised on closed-circuit TV last night at Laurel and Pimlico, the business figures also were encouraging to officials.

At the completion of the card, $93,235 was bet at Laurel and $89,325 at Pimlico. The amount bet at Rosecroft at the plant itself was $305,395, down about $20,000 from the previous Thursday.

Last night's Pimlico harness attendance of 800 to 900 exceeded expectations. Rosecroft ran out of programs and didn't supply enough seating, and patrons complained about being shut out at the windows.

"We are pleasantly taken aback," said track marketing director Dave Rovine. "You can be sure we will double the amount of betting windows and provide more space and have plenty of programs on hand tonight."

The attendance at Laurel was between 600 and 700, although those fans bet slightly more than the Pimlico fans.

One fan, Al Burton of Catonsville, said he used to be a Freestate Raceway regular, but after that track closed he didn't attend the harness races at Rosecroft.

"It was just too far to go," he said. He plans to go to Pimlico regularly.

At Rosecroft during the afternoon thoroughbred simulcasts, parking lot attendants said 50 percent of the cars came from Virginia, 30 percent from Washington and 20 percent from Maryland.

After the thoroughbred card was over, only a couple of fans stayed for the harness races.

Most of the people randomly interviewed said they are strictly thoroughbred fans. Many said that they regularly attend the Pimlico simulcasts at Laurel, but came to Rosecroft because it is more convenient.

Pimlico/Laurel general manager Jim Mango said it is going to take two or three weeks before "we will really know what kind of impact this inter-tracking experiment is going to have."

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