Simulcast picture clear: betting up

January 01, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

The introduction of full-card simulcasts from out-of-state tracks and the opening of the state's first three off-track betting parlors turned business around in 1993 for Maryland's thoroughbred racing industry.

The gross amount wagered in Maryland at Laurel and Pimlico plus the staggered opening of two other inter-track sites at the Rosecroft and Delmarva harness outlets and the three off-track betting sites in Frederick, Elkton and Cambridge contributed to a 5.9 percent rise over 1992 in total in-state wagers.

Betting climbed by $22 million after most of these outlets began operating in April, May and June. During the first quarter, when only live racing was offered at Laurel and simulcasts at Pimlico, business showed near catastrophic losses, down as much as 16 percent.

"It doesn't take an Einstein to see that business did a 180-degree turnaround," said track operator Joe De Francis. "The statistics show a couple of stark points. If we had kept going like we were the first part of the year, we would have been out of business by now. Secondly, there was a tremendous surge of interest in what we offered our fans once we started the [out-of-state] simulcasts."

A total of $114,854,404 was bet on the simulcasts, representing 29 percent of the overall gross handle. Because of the introduction of the out-of-state races, betting on Maryland's live cards dropped 24 percent. At the off-track sites, more money is bet on the out-of-state races than the live Maryland card.

The average daily handle showed a decrease from 1992, because of the poor first quarter and the addition of 22 "simulcast only" days. Live cards were presented on 248 of the total 270 racing dates. In 1992, there were 254 live cards.

Even though there is a demand in Maryland for the out-of-state races, there is also quite a bit of interest in other states for Maryland's live product. An additional $93,092,956 or about $375,000 a day was bet out-of-state on Maryland races, a jump of 31 percent from 1992. When both in-state and out-of-state figures are combined, overall business increased 20 percent from 1992. The gross in 1993 on total wagers was $490,717,685 compared to $410,780,263 in 1992.

"I think there is quite a lot to be optimistic about," De Francis added. "Our rank and file mutuel clerks are making more money than they ever have and horsemen's purses have stayed the same despite the disastrous start at the beginning of the year."

A total of $23,005,906 was bet at the off-track betting parlors in Frederick, Elkton and Cambridge. The Cracked Claw in Urbana, which opened April 30, led the way with $15,710,051 in bets. A total of $6,193,597 was bet at Poor Jimmy's in North East, which opened June 3, followed by $1,102,258 wagered at The Shoals in Cambridge, which opened Sept. 9.

Following is a list of the seven Maryland wagering sites and the percentage each site contributed to the $397,624,729 gross handle: Laurel, 49; Pimlico, 33.3; Rosecroft, 10.10; Cracked Claw, 4.0; Poor Jimmy's, 1.6; Delmarva, .83; The Shoals, .30.

Overall attendance was down in 1993, but the figures are misleading since no attendance count is taken at the OTB outlets.

PIMLICO AND LAUREL HANDLES AND ATTENDANCE

TJYear .. Days .. Total handle .. .. Avg. handle .. Total att. .. Avg. att.

1987* .. 277 .. $351,366,467 .. .. $1,268,471 .. .. 2,480,962 .. 8,956

1988** ..273 .. $420,761,281 .. .. $1,541,250 .. .. 2,868,388 .. 10,506

1989.. ..264 .. $423,870,144 .. .. $1,605,189 .. .. 2,852,197 .. 10,803

1990.. ..264 .. $435,874,022 .. .. $1,651,038 .. .. 2,882,298 .. 10,917

1991.. ..258 .. $403,966,813 .. .. $1,565,762 .. .. 2,701,434 .. 10,470

1992.. ..254 .. $375,582,714 .. .. $1,478,672 .. .. 2,584,480 .. 10,175

1993*** 270.. ..$397,624,729 .. .. $1,472,684 .. .. 2,396,318 .. 8,875

* De Francis-Manfuso brothers own both tracks; ** Inter-track wagering begins; *** Cross-breed simulcasting, OTB begins in April; No attendance taken at OTBs

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