Horse racing doesn't get betting windfall amid COVID-19 sports shutdowns

Since legalized gambling has nearly come to a standstill, horse racing remains the only sport left open for business. Despite that unique position, it hasn’t led to a surge in popularity or earnings for the few songs that are still active.

The tracks that are still running – Santa Anita and Los Alamitos are among the four in California – are closed to the general public and open only to the most essential people. In fact, running a race card requires far fewer people than when horses have to come out of their stables every morning to stop jogging or galloping.

Santa Anita gets about a third of its par-mutuel business on track or through state inter-track betting, also known as OTBs. However, the lack of other tracks running or no team sports to bet has only brought about 10% to 20% of the new revenue back to the mutuel handle.

Last Saturday and Sunday, Santa Anita bet $ 13.2 million on her races. On a similar weekend in February, there was a $ 18 million bet, of which $ 6.4 million was on the track or through inter-track bets from the state.

Other date comparisons this year showed the same trends, although numbers vary from day to day based on the number of races and horses entered. Around this time last year, Santa Anita was closed due to an increase in fatalities among horses.

“No one really thought this would be a big stroke of luck,” said Craig Fravel, general racing director at the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. “I think anyone looking at it from that point of view misses the big picture. What we are trying to do is support the ecosystem responsibly. … We want to ensure that people follow all protocols and offer them the opportunity to pay their bills. ”

During this period, the Stronach Group will donate 100% of its profits to people affected by COVID-19.

If racing in California should stop, the owners, trainers and jockeys should look into a jurisdiction that operates. Moving between tracks on the east coast is easier because of the geography. If people left California, they might never return and industry in the state could collapse.

The areas that are active are getting smaller. Racing is currently being discontinued at Aqueduct in New York, Laurel in Maryland and Fair Grounds in Louisiana. However, racing continues on Gulfstream and Tampa Bay in Florida, Oaklawn in Arkansas and two courses in Northern California, Golden Gate Fields and Cal Expo, the latter of which is only the armor race track in the country.

“I have not seen any evidence that there is a great explosion of sports betting on horse racing from now on,” said Alex Waldrop, general manager of the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. “But if we can stay responsible and race, we can start pulling players who have bet on other sports.”

Racing continued in Santa Anita with no fans on hand.

(David McNew / Getty Images)

As for the sport’s economic fuel, betting, it is estimated that as much as 90% is done online through down payments (ADWs). Betting money through an ADW on the track counts as an on-track handle, which explains why the math isn’t always right. And with at least 20 states with home orders, so much money can still be bet.

“Horse racing is better off than other forms of gaming,” said Kip Levin, president of FanDuel and CEO of TVG, the horse racing television channel. Our new customers [to TVG’s online betting service] have risen significantly. I don’t know if it was people who gambled on the circuits or OTBs in retail or new in general. It is too early to say it. ‘

The same goes for NYRA Bets, the ADW that runs out of the New York Racing Assn.

“We have seen an increase in the number of new gamblers, but we are sure they are not big gamblers,” said Tony Allevato, president of NYRA Bets. “A significant number are $ 2 gamblers.”

There is also an increase in horse racing on television. Fox Sports partnered with NYRA to set up live race programming for 3 hours last weekend. NBC has an agreement with TVG to also provide programming. Both shows feature races from California.

The race calendar remains a moving target. This is currently the time when the last major preparatory races for the Kentucky Derby would be held. Last Saturday, Fair Grounds walked the Louisiana Derby and then canceled the rest of the meeting.

Saturday is the Florida Derby in Gulfstream and the following Saturday the Santa Anita Derby is scheduled. Next Saturday, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct would normally take place, but both have been postponed.

The Arkansas Derby moved to the first Saturday in May – a date set aside for the Kentucky Derby, which was to be moved to the first Saturday in September.

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