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Monday, 10 June 2013

A look at Georgian Downs' opening night

On Saturday night I took a trip up to Georgian Downs in Barrie for the return of live harness racing. I'm not a huge harness fan but I do enjoy it and there's nothing better than a night at the races.
     Georgian is an interesting little track. It's located just off Highway 400, an always busy road, and just outside of Barrie, a pretty good sized city. It opened in 2001 (I think, I don't remember) to replace Barrie Raceway and play host to a slots parlor. Now that slots in Ontario have become completely useless for racing, Georgian has gone from racing ten months a year to four. I think purses are the same as last year, but I can't remember 100% and they may have taken a slight drop. 
     There was a good sized crowd at Georgian. I can't give you an exact attendance figure, but the parking lot was packed and there were a lot of people in the grandstand. I'm sure plenty were in the slots, but there were a lot of race goers. As usual, the facility was clean and the staff was pleasant. It was a great environment for racing.
     How successful was the card handle-wise? It wasn't that great. Bettors put $101,060 through the windows over the 12 race program. Only one race had more that $2,000 in the win pool. The largest pool of the night for any wager was the 7th race Superfecta, $2,599. Now, let's find how much the track got from takeout. It's pretty easy to calculate, every wager at Georgian has a 24.7% takeout except for Triactors, which are 26.7%. Not exactly bettor friendly. $23,677 was bet into Triactor pools, of which $6,321.76 was taken out. The remaining $77,383 wagered had $19,113.60 taken out, equaling $25,435.36 for the track. This doesn't even equal half of the $63,900 given out in purse money. Georgian earned 40% of the purses they paid out in takeout. 
     This is a perfect example of how sad Ontario Harness racing has gotten. Everyone is in a panic about slots, but nothing is being done to grow the 'other' revenue source, handle. I fear that we'll be seeing a few more tracks go the way of Windsor and Woodstock and shut down. If handle doesn't grow, and grow fast, it may be necessary to say goodbye to few more tracks. Georgian Downs could very easily be one of them.