Halfway through this summer’s meet, total betting on races at the Saratoga Race Course is higher than last year but the number of admissions is lower.
In 22 days of racing, there have been 450,009 paid admissions, down from 465,293 at this point last year, and about $65 million gambled on the races at the course, down from $66.7 million. The good news is that gambling from all sources on the races, including other sources such as the Internet and off-tracking betting, has jumped up by about $3.2 million to about $313.2 million.
Officials at the New York Racing Association aren’t drawing conclusions yet about the preliminary results.
“The only important conclusions will be those drawn at the end of the meet,” said NYRA spokesman Eric Wing, echoing similar statements made earlier in the meet by NYRA CEO Chris Kay.
There were hopes before the start of the meet that the race course could attract more than a million people, but those hopes were predicated on good weather. So far this meet, NYRA feels like the weather hasn’t broken in their favor, with high temperatures on opening day and rainy weather for the first giveaway day blamed for the drop in paid admissions.
There was also a decrease in paid admissions for this past Sunday’s giveaway day compared with the same Sunday last year. There were 46,330 paid admissions for this year’s Fourstardave bobblehead giveaway and 52,251 for last year’s picnic mat giveaway. Despite the drop in paid admissions, gambling at the track actually went up for the day, which could indicate that more people stuck around for the racing this year, rather than snagging their giveaway item and leaving, and that the decreased admission figure was due to less interest in the giveaway.
It’s not clear what impact the Saratoga 150 celebrations, which commemorate the 150th year since the start of racing in Saratoga Springs, have had on admission numbers this year. There has been speculation that the events have drawn attention away from the track, but paid admissions increased Aug. 3, when the anniversary was officially commemorated at the track.
Looking to the rest of the meet, Wing said, “Historically, the most anticipated races are the ones yet to come.”
Those include the Travers Stakes and the Alabama Stakes.
Regarding the increase in total gambling, Wing said it reinforced the fact that NYRA offers the best thoroughbred racing in the country. “During the Saratoga meet, 35 percent of all the money [wagered on thoroughbred races in the country] is wagered on Saratoga races,” he said.
Another positive so far is the year’s food and beverage receipts at the race course, which are up from last year.
There are 18 days of racing left in the meet, which includes two more giveaway days.