Delaware: Competition took toll on total wagering

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 20, 2016

Delaware Park said the continued overlap of racing dates and competition for horses in the congested Mid-Atlantic region played a role in a decrease in total pari-mutuel handle for its 2016 meet.

Total wagering on live races during the 81-day meet that ended Oct. 15 was reported at $93,952,394, down 10.3% from $104,789,404 for the comparable meet in 2015. Average daily handle fell by the same percentage, from $1,293,696 last year to $1,159,906 this year.

On a positive note given the fact Delaware Park for much of its meet raced against tracks in neighboring Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, average field size increased to 7.23 from 7.08 in 2015.

Under a three-year contract with the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the track has offered 81 racing programs in each of the last several years. The parties announced the contract was extended for one year through 2017.

“The drop in handle was disappointing, but it is a direct indication of the competitive racing environment in the Mid-Atlantic and the ever-increasing conflicting dates from other racetracks in the region,” Kevin DeLucia, senior vice president of racing/finance for Delaware Park, said Oct. 18. “Starters per race increased slightly despite no longer having horses stabled on the grounds from five-time leading owner Midwest Thoroughbreds for the first time since 2009.

“We also have an agreement in place with horsemen for next year which will help us continue the positive momentum of attracting additional quality horsemen to the Delaware Valley. We are looking forward to our historic 80th season of live racing and overcoming the challenges before us.”

Along with competition for racehorses, Delaware Park is fighting to maintain if not grow its share of gaming dollars in a region with a glut of casinos. Delaware Park and the state’s two harness tracks are again expected to lobby the state legislature for casino-related tax relief in 2017.

(Delaware Park photo by Tom LaMarra)