Purses, Handle Soar at Canada's Woodbine

The 165-day Thoroughbred meet at Woodbine Racecourse that ended Sunday showed significant increases in purses and wagering.

Boosted by revenues from more than 1,700 slot machines that began operating in March 2000, Woodbine purses rose 7% to total more than $80-million, for a daily average distribution of $485,000. This year's total purse distribution represented a 60% increase in two years.

As a result of the increased purses, Woodbine attracted larger fields, with an average of 8.2 starters per race, compared with 8.0 last year and 7.6 per race in 1999. Woodbine carded 1,558 races this year as the calendar included five additional dates over 2000, when 1,520 races were run.

With higher purses and larger field sizes, handle at Woodbine increased 14% to average $2,085,756 per day from all sources. Total wagering on the meeting, from all sources, was $344 million, up more than $50 million from last year. More than $12 million was wagered via the IVR telephone account wagering system, an increase of more than 20% over last year.

"It was another extraordinary year," said Woodbine president and CEO David Willmot. "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."