The Maryland Jockey Club concluded the 2008 racing season with average wagering figures 22.5% lower than 2007. All sources handle totaled $668.1 million as compared to $875.8 million the previous year. Racing 14 fewer days in 2008, the daily handle decreased from nearly $3.8 million to just over $2.9 million each day.
Wagering figures for the 17-week Laurel Park fall meeting were 39% lower than a year ago. Numbers for the Laurel Park winter (down 17%) and Pimlico Race Course spring (down 16%) stands were also down from the previous year.
The signature day of the year was a success as a crowd of 112,222 packed Pimlico May 17 for the 13-race card headlined by the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the middle jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. Attendance figures have now topped six-figures in nine of the last 10 years, including eight straight. Preakness day wagering finished at more than $73 million, the fifth largest in the 133-year history of the event.
On Nov. 4, Maryland voters approved the proposed state constitutional amendment authorizing the General Assembly to issue licenses for the installation and operation of up to 15,000 video lottery terminals at five locations. Support for the measure garnered 59% of the vote.
Laurel Park is a potential site for 4,750 machines to be located in Anne Arundel County and the Maryland Jockey Club will apply for a license. Maryland is surrounded by slot machines in Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
“The passage of the slots referendum gives us hope that we will be able to turn the table in the near future,” said Tom Chuckas, Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer. “Our goal is to move forward and grow the business. We want to expand the hospitality, with racing as the key ingredient, and get people interested in coming back to the track.”