Total handle, VLT revenue for purses increase again in Maryland

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Jan. 7, 2018

Racing days aren’t the only thing that increased in Maryland in 2016.

The Maryland Jockey Club reported a 12% increase in total pari-mutuel handle on its live racing product, while Maryland Lottery statistics show a 14.3% jump in casino video lottery terminal revenue that went to the Purse Dedication Account.

Wagering on live races at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course and harness racing at Rosecroft Raceway totaled $627.3 million, up from $560.1 million in 2016, the MJC reported. MJC President Sal Sinatra noted that handle on Laurel races alone was roughly $500 million, up from about $325 million in 2014.

Sinatra said handle per race at Laurel was down a bit given the loss of multiple days of turf racing, which generally generates more wagering.

The MJC said average daily handle on live racing was $3.3 million, up from $3 million the previous year.

“We’ve scheduled nine more (Thoroughbred) racing days (in 2018), and it will be the second year of condensing our stakes on specific days, so we expect to have a strong year,” Sinatra said. “We’re hoping to help Maryland trainers. Field size should be fine—last year lots of races came off the turf, and we also raced four days a week in December.”

The MJC’s growing off-track betting network—another facility in Carroll County is expected to open soon—generated almost $40 million in wagering in 2017. Sinatra said he’d like to see that number increase 15%-20% this year.

“One of the hardest thing is increasing days without affecting the overall product here and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region,” Sinatra said.

Laurel will race three programs a week, except for several Mondays, through the end of its winter/spring meet.

Sinatra also a new “sports book” with a 72-by-26-foot screen being built adjacent the current sports bar could be open in time for March Madness. Laurel has regularly offered various sports promotions and contests in its sports bar, but also is looking ahead should sports betting be legalized pending the results of a Supreme Court case brought by New Jersey.

VLT PURSE DEDICATION ACCOUNT GETS BOOST

Gross video lottery terminal revenue at Maryland casinos increased 30.5% to almost $1 billion in 2017, and that meant growth in the state’s Purse Dedication Account and Racetrack Facility Renewal Account.

The Maryland Lottery reported gross VLT revenue of $999,669,111 for last year, up from $765,917,540 in 2016. Last year marked the first full year of operation for the MGM National Harbor casino; that facility accounted for 31.8% of VLT gross revenue in the state.

Horse racing in Maryland receives 6% of VLT revenue for purses at five casinos—MGM, Live! Casino, Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, Hollywood Casino Perryville and Ocean Downs Casino—and 2.5% at Rocky Gap Casino Resort. Maryland Lottery statistics show $58.38 million was generated for the Purse Dedication Account in 2017, up 14.3% from $51.05 million in 2016.

Racing’s legislated share dropped from 7% to 6% in December 2016 with the opening of MGM.

The Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account, which offers matching funds to tracks for capital improvements, collected $9.53 million last year, up 31.8% from 2016. The account is funded by 1% of VLT revenue at casinos with the exception of Rocky Gap.

Based on the legislated splits of 80% for the Thoroughbred industry and 20% for the Standardbred industry, the Thoroughbred share was $46.7 million and the harness share $11.67 million.

The VLT revenue has been an important part of the steady growth in horse racing and breeding in Maryland, including additional racing opportunities for both breeds. With MGM National Harbor now having operated for a full year, and no new casinos in the pipeline in Maryland, VLT revenue is expected to level off given continued competition in neighboring states.