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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Enough is Enough

Developers are looking to re-open the old Georgetown Raceway in Delaware as Georgetown Downs. This is in addition to a proposal to build a racetrack in Millsboro. Both of these tracks are looking to fill the four week break in the Delaware schedule when both Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway are closed.

Do we need another track in Delaware? No. First of all, if you are someone who races exclusively in Delaware, this four week period gives you an opportunity to rest your stock for the resumption of racing. If you are so inclined to race during these four weeks, you can race at Ocean Downs in Maryland or if you have good enough stock, you can try your luck at Chester Downs. Then why the interest in establishing one or two more tracks in a geographically small state?

Is there any surprise that both proposals call for slot machines? These proposal are more about opening and operating slot parlors (and possibly table games) than they are about supporting standardbred racing. The opening of either racetrack will weaken Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway, two tracks that have traditionally supported standardbred racing, and it could also result in the demise of Ocean Downs, currently the only operating extended pari-mutuel racetrack in Maryland (though Rosecroft may resume operation). Yes, the state of Delaware has little regard for the survival of racing in Maryland, but horsemen should. After all, if Ocean Downs closed and you are a Delaware horsemen with a horse that can't cut it on the Delaware circuit or are unable to draw into a race, Ocean Downs provides you a relief valve, another option to race your lesser stock.

Delaware is in the process of hiring a consultant to investigate the possibility of allowing additional racinos or stand alone casinos in the state to see if the benefits of new gambling locations outweighs the impact on existing gambling locations. Unless this study indicates new gambling locations should be allowed, these two racino proposals are DOA. Hopefully the study indicates the market is already saturated. However, if the study indicates new gambling locations should be allowed, then a racino is obviously preferred as a regular casino would have an unfair competitive advantage over the state's three racetracks. However, any new racino should have to race more than one month to show their commitment, even if it requires taking some days away from the other tracks.

1 comment:

JLB said...

Georgetown Raceway brings back memories. As a young fan, living just 11 miles from Yonkers Raceway, I, with my father, preferred visiting "exotic" tracks, whose physical appearance, pre-simulcasting, was a mystery until we showed up. Situated 45 minutes South of Dover Downs, Georgetown was literally a 380 mile round-trip for us, which we did twice in 1971. At that time, and for most of their existence, EVERY purse was $ 500, crowds averaged about 1000, and daily handle was roughly $ 40,000-50,000. There were nights when first race post was held up because the track relied on some fans from South Jersey who took the ferry over, and fog sometimes delayed the boat.

Since this was before Liberty Bell held a Winter meet, horses at Georgetown often came from Wheeling Downs (later a dog track), and one of the notable young drivers there was Roger Hammer. It was not unusual to see $ 500 claimers go 2:14-2:16 on a fast track.

If anyone has anecdotes re: Georgetown or tracks such as Green Mountain and Hinsdale, it would be interesting to read them.