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What you need to know for 09/25/2017

Here’s how much has been wagered so far at Saratoga in 2017

Summer in Saratoga

Here’s how much has been wagered so far at Saratoga in 2017

Paid attendance in first 20 meet days jumped
Here’s how much has been wagered so far at Saratoga in 2017
Ryan Dungeon, 9, cheers for his horse last month while wearing his new Saratoga baseball cap.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

Halfway through its 2017 meet, Saratoga Race Course is enjoying an increase in wagering and attendance compared to last year.

­­After 20 days of racing in 2017, the track has seen a nearly 11 percent spike in its wagering handle compared to the same time frame in 2016, as well as a very small attendance boost. The 40-day meet hit its halfway point after Saturday's races.

RELATED: NYRA reports good results with digital wagering system

Of the $342.5 million in bets so far, $79.8 million has come from on-track wagering, which includes bets placed at New York Racing Association facilities and by New York state NYRA Bets customers, said Patrick McKenna, director of communications for NYRA.

“NYRA derives the majority of its net income from wagering, which is critical to the sustainability of the annual Saratoga meet responsible for generating $237 million in local and regional economic impact,” McKenna said in a statement.

In addition to a spike in gambling numbers, paid attendance in the first 20 days also jumped in 2017, though not by much.

Through Saturday, 561,060 people have passed through the turnstiles at the track, which is slightly up over 2016's halfway draw of 558,732, officials said. The track set an attendance record last year with just more than 1.1 million visitors.

The track has sweetened the pot in recent years for visitors on what might typically be slower days by introducing giveaways on weekdays.

For example, the giveaway on Monday, Aug. 7, was a gray T-shirt emblazoned with a red "Saratoga Race Course 2017."

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The shirt was the race course's second giveaway of the year — fans scored Saratoga baseball caps July 23, during the meet's opening weekend.

Early Christmas shoppers will wait in line for another Monday bonanza and another Sunday treasure hunt. The black-and-red Saratoga cooler bag will be in stock Monday, Aug. 21, while a Saratoga Race Course clock will be the giveaway Sept. 3 during the meet's final weekend.

Saratoga last conducted an all-Sunday giveaway schedule in 2014. That was also the year the voucher rule changed — fans were told they could pay two admission charges at once and receive vouchers for two souvenirs. Before that, fans had been allowed to pay five admission charges at once.

The racing association explained the policy change by saying the rule created a more equitable process on giveaway days. People with just one or two vouchers no longer had to compete with track fans who had purchased 10 or 15 vouchers — although determined gift seekers can still amass multiple vouchers ... if they're willing to wait in line several times.

In 2015, the giveaways included a baseball cap and long-sleeved shirt on two Sundays; a cooler bag on a Monday during the meet; and an umbrella on a Wednesday.

The overall increases come despite some concern over horse safety at the track. Friday saw the 13th equine fatality on Saratoga Race Course grounds since May 28, and 11th since the start of the meet on July 21. Six of those occurred during racing, three on the main track.

The organization Horseracing Wrongs held a protest near the track July 30 in response to the equine fatalities.

“We take the health and welfare of our equine athletes and jockeys seriously,” McKenna said in a statement earlier this month, citing recent improvements to the track intended to improve the surface.

BY THE NUMBERS

On-track wagers at Saratoga consist of bets made at New York Racing Association facilities, and by New York state NYRA Bets customers. All-source wager numbers include all bets, including those made out of state at non-NYRA locations and through advanced-deposit wagering platforms.

Here’s a look at where the numbers stand in 2017 through the first 20 days of the meet.

All-sources (2017)

$342,506,638

All-sources (2016)

$309,760,529

On-track (2017)

$79,761,216

On-track (2016)

$73,451,290

Attendance (2017)

561,060

Attendance (2016)

558,732

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