Citing concerns over crowded conditions in the grandstand because of an influx of slot-machine players, Philadelphia Park Racetrack & Casino announced Jan. 2 it would move first post time back 20 minutes, from 12:25 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. EST, and drop races from its weekend cards.
“We’re doing it to alleviate some of the congestion,” said Sal Sinatra, director of racing at Philly Park. “We were asked (by casino management) if we could finish the live racing card by 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, because it would help.”
The first two floors of the grandstand have been converted to slots areas, with only a small portion of the first floor and the third floor, which hadn’t been used for years, available for horseplayers. The current configuration is considered temporary until a new, standalone casino is built in the front parking lot. That isn’t expected to be complete until sometime in 2008.
Sinatra said that, instead of carding the normal 10 races on Saturday and nine on Sunday, he would card eight races each of those days. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the card will be increased to 11 races from the usual 10.
“We added a race on Monday and Tuesday because we don’t want to take races away from the horsemen,” Sinatra said. “We’ll see how it goes, but we may end up carding nine races on the weekends, especially with the warmer weather coming up and big days like the Triple Crown races and Breeders’ Cup.”
Sinatra said though the change in the weekend cards wasn’t universally well-received by horsemen, most understand the issues that have come with an influx of slots players.
“We’ll work with the casino people because we’re cohabitating with them,” Sinatra said.
Philly Park became the second racetrack in the state to activate slots when it did so the third week in December. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a harness track, begans slots operations in November.
Daily average purses at Philly Park increased to about $175,000 when the 2007 season commenced Jan. 2, and they could hit $300,000 a day later this year, officials have said.