There may not be any fans trackside, but mainstay ovals like Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn that host late winter/early spring meets have been posting record betting handles the past two months solely from on line wagering. Fonner Park and Will Rogers Downs — lesser known tracks to east coast players — have experienced similar record shattering marks.
Despite the lack of U.S. horse racing product available to wager due to the covid-19 pandemic, a large audience has embraced the handful of tracks that have been able to run. Through the first four months of 2020, handle from Virginia horseplayers is up 23% over last year. Fans can wager via four partner wagering sites — TVG.com, Xpressbet.com, Twinspires.com and NYRABets.com.
Tampa Bay Downs, which extended their meet thru April, requested to add another eight days to their season.
In April alone, TVG handled $5,261,753, which was $1.3 million more than they handled in either January, February or March. For the four month period, they have handled $16,744,374, up almost 40% from 2019.
Twinspires followed next, accepting $2,800,544 in bets which was $582,000 more than in any other month. They have handled $9,025,538 this year, up 1% over 2019. Xpressbet has seen a comparison double digit business increase. They handled $1,331,242 in April and $4,540,037 for the year, which is up 10.6%. NYRABets, newest Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) outlet of the four, is up 97% this year with $1,2317,678 in handle versus $615,846 in 2019.
Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in the state, which have OTBs on site, closed on March 16 due to Covid-19.
Overall, Virginia residents wagered $31,627,629 in the first four months compared with $25,629,433 in 2019. Thoroughbred handle is up 29% while harness is off 21%. Unlike thoroughbreds, no North American harness track has conducted races in the past couple months.
Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the menu of tracks available to wager —without on track spectators — is increasing. The list includes Gulfstream Park, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Tampa Bay Downs, Charles Town, Fonner Park and Will Rogers Downs. Scioto Downs will be the first harness track to return to action with an opening day of May 22.