A Covid-pandemic world changed the way horseplayers wagered in 2020. When much of the industry came to a standstill in mid-March, a handful of tracks still operating reaped benefits as a move to online wagering became the new norm.
Handle figures from Virginia’s four partner Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) companies — TVG, Xpressbet, Twinspires and NYRABets — began to grow markedly in early spring then continued to surge throughout the rest of the year as more tracks came on board. Even when Virginia OTBs and simulcast centers in Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums reopened in early July, online wagering continued to blossom. By year’s end, online handle had grown by 56.4% over 2019’s figures with $135,486,989 in wagers placed, versus $86,629,347 the year prior.
Top handle producer of the ADWs was TVG, whose $70,827,157 handle represented a 70.80% gain over last year’s $41,468,459. Despite the fact that all three legs of the Triple Crown were delayed — including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness which are normally held in May — TVG’s biggest handle producing month was May with $8,362,852. TVG averaged $193,487 in bets per day, highest of the four ADWs.
Twinspires was next with $39,771,460, a 32.69% increase over last year’s $29,972,433. They had their best month in July, handling $4,812,192 in wagers. On average, Twinspires took in wagers of $108,661 per day.
Xpressbet, third in overall handle, experienced a 53.07% boost while accepting $18,209,171 in wagers compared with $11,896,242 in 2019. Their most successful month was July as well when they handled $2,022,934. Xpressbet’s daily average take was $49,771.
NYRABets, newest of the four online partners, had a triple digit business increase over 2019. Their 2020 handle of $6,679,199 was 102.8% better than last year’s $3,292,212. Their biggest producing month on thoroughbreds came in August ($815,413) when the annual Saratoga meet was in full swing and major graded stakes were scheduled there each weekend.
Turning to brick and mortar sites, $2,089,784 million was wagered in December on horse racing action at Virginia’s seven OTBs — the four at Rosie’s Gaming Centers in New Kent, Vinton, Richmond and Hampton, and the three VA-Horseplay sites in Henrico (Breakers), Chesapeake (Buckets) and Collinsville (The Windmill). Breakers was the top handle producing venue with $486,010 and for the year, handled $5,048,467. Buckets was next with $494,526 and for the year, handled $4,824,197. The Rosie’s in Hampton was third with $318,604 and overall, handled $3,641,887 in 2020.
Heading into mid-January, wagering should continue to remain strong with winter’s biggest stake race coming up and Kentucky Derby prep race season about to hit full stride.
The $3 Million Pegasus World Cup (Gr. I) is slated for Gulfstream Park on Saturday January 23. The stakes-filled card also includes the $1 Million Pegasus World Cup Turf (Gr. I), $200,000 Inside Information Stakes (Gr. 2), $150,000 William McKnight (Gr. 2), $150,000 Marshua’s River (Gr. 3), $150,000 La Prevoyante (Gr. 3) and $150,000 Fred Hooper (Gr. 3).
Major upcoming Derby preps include the Holy Bull and Robert Lewis (Jan. 30), Withers and Sam Davis (Feb. 6), San Vicente (Feb. 7), Risen Star and El Camino Real Derby (Feb. 13), Southwest (Feb. 15) and Fountain of Youth (Feb. 27).