01/03/2016 3:12PM

Handle up 20 percent at Maryland Jockey Club tracks in 2015

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The Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course had all-sources handle of $404 million last year, an increase of 20 percent over the $338 million wagered in 2014, according to track officials. In-state handle on the MJC tracks was up 6 percent, increasing from $25.4 million to $27 million.

The Maryland Jockey Club downsized to a three-day race week for much of last year and added a summer meet at Laurel.

Sal Sinatra, general manager of the MJC, said in a release that a growing offtrack betting network, running more turf races, and capital improvements to Laurel Park contributed to the increase in wagering.

An OTB at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, which opened in May, handled $6.9 million during 2015. Major improvements also were made to the first floor of the Laurel Park grandstand.

The MJC ran 234 turf races last year, up from 103 in 2014. The increase in turf races primarily was due to Laurel adding a summer meet. In 2016, the MJC will race year-round except for breaks Feb. 16- March 10 and Aug. 22-Sept. 8. Timonium will race during the summer break.

The MJC also instituted an industry-low 12 percent-takeout pick five, a Rainbow 6, and rolling super high fives last year.

"New wagers, improvements at Laurel Park, and bigger, more competitive fields have helped our product,” Sinatra said. “We believe there is much more room for growth in Maryland.”

Other 2015 highlights included a record attendance of 131,680 on Preakness Day and improved business on Black-Eyed Susan Day.

The Black-Eyed Susan card, the day before the Preakness, handled $18.5 million, the highest for the day since 2010, and an increase of 63 percent from the $11.3 million bet in 2014.

Laurel Park will race on a Friday-to-Monday basis until Feb. 15.