Delaware Park is scheduled to race 136 days this year.

Delaware Park is scheduled to race 136 days this year.

Jeffrey Snyder

Delaware Bill Raises Minimum Dates

A bill would change the minimum number of days Delaware Park could run each year.

Delaware Park could conduct no less than 135 days of Thoroughbred racing each year under legislation introduced in the state General Assembly.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Oberle, would allow for fewer days if the schedule is “specifically agreed upon in writing by the designated association representing horse owners and trainers.” Currently, that group is the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The bill, introduced Jan. 24, was assigned to the House Gaming and Pari-Mutuels Committee. Oberle often sponsors racing-related legislation and was instrumental in passage of the state law authorizing racetrack gaming in 1994.

The state VLT law sets the minimum number of dates for Delaware Park at 100. The current contract between Delaware Park and the Delaware THA calls for no less than 135 dates.

A synopsis included in Oberle’s bill notes there have been 135 or more racing days at Delaware Park every year except two since 1994.

Delaware Park this year is scheduled to run 136 racing days, though management has expressed interest in running fewer days in the future given the competition for horses in the Mid-Atlantic region. Under the contract with the Delaware THA, Delaware Park remains open for year-round training.

VLTs began operating at Delaware Park in late 1995. Two harness tracks--Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway--also have VLTs.

By law, the tracks, which pay for VLT casino infrastructure, get 47%-48% of gross VLT revenue, and purses 10%-12%. At Delaware Park in 2007, track commissions totaled about $131 million, while purses earned about $27 million.

The state gets 34%-36% of gross revenue depending on the track, while 6% goes toward a central VLT computer system and machine equipment.