Pimlico draws better betting

Numbers for handle, attendance increase in spring meeting

June 21, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Racing's national resurgence settled upon Pimlico this spring, as the venerable racetrack ended its meet yesterday with a sharp upsurge in betting and the first increase in attendance in years.

Other factors contributed to Pimlico's most successful meeting in years: favorable weather, increased television advertising, strong local racing, a captivating Triple Crown series and a record-breaking Preakness.

Joe De Francis, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said that on those positive notes he looks forward to implementing his plan for dramatic improvements at Pimlico and Laurel Park.

"I think we definitely have a foundation we can build on," he said.

During Pimlico's season that began March 29, betting increased 17.8 percent over the same period last year. That includes bets in Maryland on all races and outside of Maryland on races at Pimlico.

During the 71-day meet (58 days of live racing, 13 simulcast only), the handle totaled $261,596,138, compared with last year's $222,075,752. Included in this year's total were categories that particularly pleased Maryland Jockey Club officials.

For the first time in years, betting in Maryland increased on Maryland races. The trend had been disturbing: more and more money bet on out-of-state races.

This spring, wagering on Pimlico by gamblers at Pimlico, Laurel Park, Rosecroft Raceway and the off-track betting parlors increased 3 percent -- for a ratio of 34 percent on Pimlico and 66 percent on out-of-state simulcasts.

Also, betting in Maryland on all races increased 5 percent and betting out of state on Pimlico rose a whopping 31.8 percent.

Pimlico seems to have benefited from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Its national advertising and buying of TV time for horse racing apparently have re-energized handle and boosted attendance at tracks throughout the country.

De Francis said his staff also deserves credit for advertising more on TV than ever before, offering quality live racing, sending out an eye-catching simulcast signal and spacing Pimlico's races so they didn't conflict with the most popular out-of-state races.

And for the first time in years attendance increased at Pimlico, Laurel Park and Rosecroft (the OTBs don't keep count) -- by 3 percent, from 578,926 last spring to 596,467 this spring.

Pub Date: 6/21/99

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