Off the Pace: 10 New Year’s resolutions for Delaware Park

When the casino and racetrack at Delaware Park were sold last year to a Canadian private equity firm (Clairvest Group) and a subsidiary of Rubico Gaming, it marked the first ownership change at the facility in nearly 40 years. Some wondered how that might impact – for good or ill – the racing side of the business. 

During the 2022 meet there were no significant changes to the purse structure, wagering menu or class of racing at Delaware Park. I don’t know if the status quo will continue this year. If it does, it could indicate that management feels that putting a lot of time and effort into the racing side of the business may not produce significant returns. 

But we think there’s some life left in the grand old sport, and in the spirit of New Year’s we offer some New Year’s resolutions for Delaware Park. These ideas may not in and of themselves make the track a profit center, but they could improve the bettors’ experience at the track and, thus, the bottom line.

All of the suggested resolutions revolve around either increasing handle, bringing in existing gamblers who will bet and/or trying to introduce new bettors to the game. 

1) Delaware Park should adjust their racing calendar to run on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays (with the exceptions noted in item #2). These days are the lightest on the national racing calendar, and racing on them would keep Delaware from competing directly with Maryland, Virginia, Monmouth, and in the summer, Saratoga.

2) In an effort to increase foot traffic at the facility itself, I suggest adding weekend days such as holidays like Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, prime racing days elsewhere such as Preakness and Belmont days, and prime local days such as the running of the Delaware Oaks and Delaware Handicap and Owners Day. But it’s not enough just to get newcomers in the door: make efforts in educating or assisting novices on how to place a bet. At the very least the track can generate revenue from the increased concession sales and hopefully create a fun atmosphere to encourage repeat visits. Utilize the best paddock in the region to create a unique experience and to allow the fans to see the beauty of the horses and the facility.

3) Invest in the turf course to enable it to be utilized more frequently. The increase in handle that turf races typically provide should make this a good investment. 

4) Employ social media in a bigger way to promote the track. It can be the most cost effective marketing tool when used properly. 

5) Promote the gambling aspect to existing casino and sports players in the customer database. Emphasize how exotic bets can lead to big payouts even with modest bets. Offer handicapping seminars to this customer group specifically. 

6) Lower the takeout incrementally in an effort to find a sweet spot where handle increase offsets the reduction in rake.

7) For your heaviest bettors offer rewards that are greater than what they get from their ADW accounts. There are many on-site bettors who wager through ADWs. This is a huge revenue loss when you compare the track take of an ADW wager versus an on track wager.

8) Get more races from Delaware Park broadcast on FanDuel TV. 

9) Schedule and adjust your post times on the fly slightly if needed, so they do not conflict with the other weekday tracks.

10) Schedule events (food trucks/bands/beer specials) periodically on the track apron during live racing in an effort to encourage casino patrons and new customers to come outside and witness a race. Promote The Terrace Restaurant and the free seating by the finish line. These are the best seats in the house in which to have people view your product. 

Delaware’s facility is one of the best around, and a day at Delaware stacks up nicely against a day at just about any other racetrack. It can be a great asset for building the business. I don’t want to jump the gun, but… is it May yet?

Happy new year!