The Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Delaware Park recently signed a three-year contract that calls for 85 live racing programs each year from 2019-2021.
The two parties had been operating on an extension of a previous agreement that authorized 81 racing days per meet. Increases in the purse share of revenue from sports betting and video lottery terminals was the impetus for the added days, DTHA Executive Director Bessie Gruwell said.
“We had been working to make up for an overpayment of purses, and we did,” Gruwell said. “With the increase in slots revenue and revenue from single-game sports betting, there is additional purse money. And we think two years will give us a good barometer on where we are with sports betting. The purse account is in its best financial position since 2009.”
In 2018 the Delaware legislature passed a casino tax reduction bill that also slightly increased the percentage of VLT revenue that goes to purses at the state’s three racetracks—from 9% to 9.3% in July 2018 and then 9.6% in July 2019. In addition, full sports betting became available in June after the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
According to Delaware Lottery statistics, Thoroughbred purses accrued $598,000 from the horsemen’s 9.6% cut of sports betting revenue at Delaware Park in 2018. When the same purse share of sports betting revenue at retail outlets in New Castle County is added, the total is more than $900,000.
The 2019 meet at Delaware Park will begin May 4—Kentucky Derby day—and conclude Oct. 5. The last few years the meet has begun about a month later and ended in mid- to late October.
“We’re excited to be opening again at the beginning of the Triple Crown season, when there is a lot of excitement and interest,” Gruwell said.
Live racing in May will be offered three days a week: Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays will be added in June to make for the usual four-day-a-week schedule through the rest of the meet except the final week.
The contract includes a change in when the stable area will be open. In recent years it has opened March 1 and closed Dec. 31, but that will change to March 15 through Dec. 15.
“We’d like to thank Bessie, (DTHA President) Scott Peck and the negotiating committee,” said Kevin DeLucia, Senior Vice President of Racing/Finance at Delaware Park. “We had really good discussions and were able to reach an agreement that benefits both sides. Purses should be up this year even with the four extra days.”
DeLucia said sports betting “has been very beneficial. It does represent only 3%-4% of our revenue, but it has helped contribute to purses this year. Slots play remains steady. We did have tax relief last year, and that has helped.
Track officials at the Jan. 16 Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission meeting announced that the grade III Delaware Oaks is scheduled for July 6 and the grade II Delaware Handicap is set for July 13, the day the track hosts its four divisional races in the MATCH Series.