Saratoga Race Course Posts Record Handle During 2019 Meet Despite Full Saturday Card Scrap

Posted on: September 3, 2019, 12:57h. 

Last updated on: September 3, 2019, 01:11h.

Saratoga Race Course parimutuel betting hit a record high in 2019 for the historic track’s annual summer meet, as wagering from all sources totaled more than $705.3 million.

Saratoga Race Course sports betting handle
The Saratoga Race Course took more bets during its summer meet than ever before. (Image: Racing Dudes)

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) said in a statement that it marked the course’s first time in its 156-year history that handle eclipsed the $700 million threshold. The 40-day Saratoga summer meet was cut short by a day due to excessive heat – the cancellation coming on a Saturday that was to feature a full card of racing.

This has been a truly outstanding meet… We would not be in this enviable position without the dedication of the owners, the talent of the horsemen, and the unmatched enthusiasm of our fans,” NYRA CEO Dave O’Rourke said.

Average daily handle for the 2019 Saratoga meet was $18 million, a nearly 10 percent increase on the 2018 races. The $705.3 million wagered is a 4.2 percent premium on the previous all-time mark set in 2017.

Horse Racing Alive

The legalization of sports betting across the country has been viewed as one way the struggling horse racing industry can be revitalized. Dennis Drazin, who runs Monmouth Park in New Jersey, was the man who convinced state lawmakers to challenge the federal sports betting ban that stood since 1992 in order to breathe life into his struggling venue.

The Supreme Court agreed with New Jersey in May 2018 that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act violated the US Constitution.

In 2011, then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) ended racing at the state-owned Meadowlands Racetrack. Developer Jeff Gural acquired the track with the hopes of turning it into a commercial casino – or at least racino with slot machines. Both the Meadowlands and Monmouth were on the brink of financial disaster when the SCOTUS decision came down.

Today, Gural says he’s operating the richest sportsbook in the world. Partner FanDuel is on pace to print $500 million worth of betting slips in its first full year, and racing has resumed at the North Jersey track.

New York Betting

New York is one of 13 states that now has sports betting operational, but only the four upstate land-based commercial casinos are able to facilitate sportsbooks.

The closest regulated sportsbook to Saratoga is roughly 20 miles south at Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady. A bill to allow mobile sports betting stalled earlier this year in the legislature.

“I’m glad we’re breaking grounds on sports betting, but it would’ve been nice to have the mobile component. But it’s a baby step,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens) said.

Allowing racinos such as the adjacent Saratoga Casino Hotel to include a sportsbook would presumably only increase foot visitation to the area.

I got racinos that could use the help,” Addabbo added. “I have racetracks that are suffering. This [sports betting] helps everyone and it stops people from going to Jersey.”

The Garden State – which has recently surpassed Nevada as the richest sports gambling state – allows sports betting at its Atlantic City casinos, two horse racetracks, and online.