The answer I gave was "I don't know." It's a small track, with small pools (where there is a struggle to get noticed) and the landscape for smaller racetracks this year has been soft. With so many factors at play I simply had no real guess.
What I can say, however, is the little track has been doing the right things, and bettors have been responding.
Although it is problematic to analyze micro results, or to get too concerned day to day - for example, I wondered why handle was off Saturday, but there was a $150,000 bridgejumper in 2015, and Saturday of 2016 was a quarterhorse day - we do have some data:
Currently from 2015, the track's Thoroughbred handle is up by about 4%. Its per entry handle is up about 10%.
Although that may not look like a big jump, given the circumstances, it is.
The entries and carded fields (partly because of fewer races on turf, but also other factors) have been really soft. Out of the 18 cards raced in 2016, 6 (33%) of them had fewer than 48 Thoroughbred entries. In 2015, no cards had under 48 entries.
During one of the cards with 43 entries, a player who is supporting the pools told me "unless I can find $500 in bets in the next two races, I won't be able to spend $2,000 today." The last two races had five horses in each, so I expect he did not succeed. That's big stuff to gamblers at almost any takeout rate or rebate level.
This is not a 'field size' issue in generic terms, though. When a track goes from a 9 horse race to a 7 horse race, handle does fall, of course, but it's almost linear. When 7 horse fields turn into to 3 or 4 horse fields -- like Canterbury has been scratched into several times this season -- it's crushing; trifecta and superfecta pools are cancelled. You can't even tread water by eliminating entire pools.
I would estimate that if Canterbury had done nothing for 2016, they would probably be down somewhere between 15% to 25% in handle this season. In fact, other tracks of their ilk, are struggling, despite fielding much more than 45 or 46 entries on a third of their cards. Small tracks overall, (those who have done less than $10M in 2016 so far) are down 10.35%. Tracks between $10M and $30M are down about 5%. It has not been a good year for smaller venues.
Canterbury Park should be encouraged at this early stage. They have done well promoting their racetrack, and have increased their handle under pretty poor circumstances. As well, it appears they stopped the bleeding; they lost revenue from handle in 2015 from 2014.
For those bettors who took a look at a couple of the 40 entry cards and were discouraged, that's improving, and should improve this summer.
For those who have not dove into the pools, take a look this Thursday and Friday, because I think it's a fun track to play, and you will be rewarding one who seems to care about its future and wants your business.
As for how much I think they'll be up in 2016, I still don't really know. Takeout reductions are usually long term in nature because of the value of churn and customer lifetime value, and in the short term there are many factors at play, just like there was a couple of months ago.
Have a nice Monday everyone.