Yesterday at Leamington Raceway near Windsor, Ontario, a grassroots racing card was put on, which should make people take notice. A foundation is being laid, that with some work, could turn out to be a worthwhile business model for small tracks in the Province.
Since the slot deal was cancelled, life has been much different in rural Ontario racing. No longer will there be $80,000 in purses given out for $8,000 in handle. Those days are over. For racing to survive for another generation, something new has to happen.
Yesterday Leamington gave out $11,000 in purses, promoted to the area to get people out, and without any simulcast had $41,101 bet. At 22% blended takeout, the betting almost paid for the day's purses. Don't laugh, that is hard to do. At some places that have a 4% signal fee, doing that doesn't even come close to happening. There are slots-fueled stakes cards at some tracks, like Philly Park or next week at Pocono for the Crown finals who could not dream of doing it.
Some will say "big deal, you still have to pay everyone to put on the racecard, and us racing for $11,000 won't do anything". They are correct, but they are also failing to look at the big picture.
When your handle covers your purses, you can at least begin to grow.
Keeneland doesn't give out a million in purses and pay all those people from their betting revenue 30 days a year. Oaklawn doesn't either, nor does Kentucky Downs. They have other revenue adding to the coffers. Revenue that can be available to a place like Leamington.
Year round simulcasting can add many thousands of dollars. Instant racing, like is done in Kentucky or Arkansas adds to revenue as well. That is being passed for Ontario racetracks to use and should be available sometime soon.
In addition, the new deal with the Ontario government allows for "grassroots purse money." Leamington should have a shot at that.
And what about other revenue? With so many people coming to this little town, can the racing be part of something bigger? On-track festivals are good for revenue, and tourism should and could be a part of everything. The often talked about "Food truck days" don't inspire me as a cold hard bettor to go to the track, but people pay $10 or more to enter these festivals at other ones.
When you have handle cover your purses, good things can happen. Leamington has that, and it is a proof of concept that I hope we see tried more of in the Province.
Congratulations to everyone who made it happen. And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Canada today.