Contract Dispute Hurts Tampa Bay Downs Meet

Declines in attendance, on-track handle, and total handle at Tampa Bay Downs were caused by a 15-day contract dispute with horsemen at the beginning of the meet, say racetrack officials.

The total all sources handle for the 93-day meet declined 9.5% to $148,863,699, down from $164,563,471 last year. Average daily on-track handle fell 8.5% to $243,194, and average daily attendance was down 3.8% to 3,203.

The racetrack near Oldsmar, Fla., did see some bright days. A single day commingled handle record of $3,877,477 was Tampa Bay Derby Day on March 18. The previous record of $3,853,409 was set Feb. 1, 2000. A single day on-track handle record of $1,198,075 was set May 5 on Kentucky Derby Day. The previous record of $1,109,764 was set April 8, 1990.

Tampa Bay Downs also saw a 22% growth in its interstate wagering handle. The growth followed a simulcast deal ironed out with the South Florida racetracks. During the meet, $2.6 million was wagered by South Florida bettors on Tampa Bay Downs races while Tampa bettors spent $3.4 million on races at Gulfstream Park and Hialeah.

"Given the recent trends from other track closing reports, we were pleased with the meet considering the way it began," said Peter Berube, Tampa Bay Downs' vice president and assistant general manager.