After Fanless Meet Ends This Weekend, Santa Anita to Become Election Site for LA Voters

Posted on: October 22, 2020, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: October 22, 2020, 11:34h.

Santa Anita wraps up its fall racing meet this weekend. But the Southern California track won’t close down officially just yet. Starting next Thursday, the historic property will open its doors and become a voting center for the first time since the track opened in 1934.

Santa Anita Election
Horses run toward the finish line in a March race at Santa Anita Park in Southern California. Since March, the track has not allowed fans to watch races in person because of COVID-19. (Image: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk, Santa Anita will be one of 765 voting places in the nation’s most populous county, home to more than 10 million people. The track’s clubhouse will be open for voters from 10 am to 7 pm PT from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. On Election Day, the hours of operation will be from 7 am to 8 pm PT.

What’s interesting about Santa Anita serving as a polling site is that the track has run races without fans in the stands since March because of the COVID-19 crisis. Licensed owners are welcome at Santa Anita, but are capped at two licensees per horse.

However, The Stronach Group-owned venue offered itself to the county. In a statement, the track touted itself as a “safe and convenient” facility that could serve area residents thanks to ample parking and a “spacious venue with large public restrooms.”

Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center, the latter home to the Lakers, Clippers, and the NHL’s Kings, will also serve as non-traditional election venues.

Lack of Crowds Not Hampering Betting Handle

Despite the lack of fans in the stands, there has not been a discernable difference in betting traffic at Santa Anita for this fall meet.

Through last Sunday, the meet has generated $95.9 million in the handle, down $17.2 million through the same time frame for last year’s meet. Last year’s meet held races on two more days to this point.

The difference in the average daily handle is about 2 percent. Last year’s meet averaged slightly more than $7.5 million compared to the slightly less than $7.4 million average for this year’s meet.

Wildfires near the landmark venue caused a delay to the start of the meet by a week this year.

Santa Anita Touts $160M Economic Impact

In March, as the coronavirus first started spreading across the country, the track faced questions about its continued operations during a declared public health emergency. Eventually, the LA County Health Department ordered Santa Anita to comply and shut down.

The track’s rationale for wanting to continue racing was that racehorses are finely trained athletes that need to be exercised properly to maintain their health. Santa Anita leaders also touted the hundreds of workers along the backstretch who rely upon the track not just for a job, but for housing during the meet.

This fall, Santa Anita has chosen to promote the impact it’s making to California, Los Angeles County, and the city of Arcadia, where the track is located. In a statement earlier this month, the track expects the truncated fall meet to still create a $160 million economic impact.

Arcadia receives one-third of one percent of the betting handle Santa Anita generates.

“We had an incredible start to our autumn meet, which will provide measurable economic benefits to the economy, as California faces a $50 billion budget deficit in the coming year,” said Aidan Butler, the Stronach Group’s chief strategy officer and the acting executive director for the track. “With the economic circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we are thankful to be playing a role in the comeback of the city, county, and state.”