Slots Keep Driving Woodbine Purses and Handle

Woodbine Race Course reported a 14% increase in average daily handle driven by a substantial increase in purses and field size.

Purses rose to just over $80 million, up 7% from a year ago, for the Toronto-area racetrack's 165-day meet that ended Sunday. Slot machines have been fattening purse accounts since March 2000 when Woodbine began operating 1,700 machines. In the past two years, purses have risen about 60%. Higher purses have increased field size from 7.6 average starters per race in 1999 to 8.2 this year.

Bettors responded to the higher quality racing by betting $50 million more than last year. The total all-sources handle was $344,149,740, or an average of $2,085,756 per day. Wagering from the United States also increased. Americans wagered $106 million on Woodbine compared to $57 million two years ago.

"It was another extraordinary year," said David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment Group. "Particularly gratifying is the acceptance of Woodbine as a premier wagering product right across North America. We are also delighted that racing and slot machines at the track are able to co-exist so well. They seem to be feeding off each other, rather than cannibalizing each other. We continue to attract about 100,000 persons per week to the facility, and that makes Woodbine an exciting place to be."

When year-end totals are complete, the Greater Toronto Area is expected to have wagered more than $535 million on live and simulcast Thoroughbred racing, which is about 3% more than last year.