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'Closing Day' caps strange but profitable season at Del Mar racetrack

Betting spikes during first season without fans
Del Mar horse racing
Posted at 1:59 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 16:59:16-04

DEL MAR (KGTV) — A historic summer season at the Del Mar racetrack is wrapping up Monday, the first season without fans in the stands in the track’s history.

But even with all the changes forced by the pandemic, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club says summer 2020 was a success.

With no fans in attendance, the Thoroughbred Club says it missed out on about $15 million in concessions and other on-track revenue this season. However, that was offset by lower staffing costs and an uptick in gambling revenue, according to Craig Dado, the club’s chief marketing officer.

“We’re really happy with the numbers we’re getting and we will be able to eek out a small profit this year,” Dado said.

Gambling revenues jumped about 7 percent thanks to off-track activity, Dado said, which is where the vast majority of bets are typically placed anyway. Anyone can bet on a Del Mar race using an app.

“Basketball was delayed. Baseball was delayed, so a lot of people turned to horse racing, and we’re happy they did,” he said.

The season had its hurdles. In July, the track canceled a weekend of racing after 15 jockeys and seven other workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Last weekend, a horse was hurt during racing and had to be put down, the first death during racing at Del Mar since 2018.

“To only have one in two racing seasons is a phenomenal number and we will definitely be the safest track in North America, as we have been the last two years,” Dado said.

Dado attributed the track’s safety record to protocols adopted three years ago.

But there are still questions about the kinds of pandemic protocols that will be in place when the November season begins.

“At this point, we have no idea what’s going to happen in November,” he said. “Things are starting to open up in San Diego County. If that continues, we hope to have some people in the stands, but at this point we really don’t know”

The November season will begin on Halloween this year, October 31.