05/08/2017 3:41PM

Laurel enjoys spike in meet business

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The 56-day Laurel Park meet, which concluded Sunday, showed gains in total handle, average daily handle, in-state wagering, and out-of-state wagering.

The meet, which began Jan. 1, had four more race days than in 2016, so it is not unexpected that total handle would be up. But while the number of days increased 7.6 percent, total handle was up 22.2 percent, from $151.1 million in 2016 to $184.7 million this year.

Average daily handle for the meet was up from $2.37 million a day in 2016 to more than $2.72 million, an increase of 14.7 percent.

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Possibly the most important figure in the spreadsheet released Monday by the Maryland Jockey Club was the growth in out-of-state money wagered on Maryland races. A total of $127.7 million was bet out of state, an increase of 22.3 percent from the $104.4 million wagered a year ago.

The increase demonstrates added interest in Maryland racing across the country.

Total in-state handle also was up. A total of $57 million was bet in Maryland at the meet, an increase of 22 percent from the $46.7 wagered last year.

Sal Sinatra, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, said he expects continuing growth in the coming years.

"We continue to renovate our facility and barn area, expand our offtrack betting network, and build relationships with our casino partners," Sinatra said. "We still believe there’s a lot more room for improvement."

The two biggest racing events of the meet, Winter Carnival and Federico Tesio Day, both showed gains in handle.

The six Winter Carnival stakes, which include the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie and Grade 3 General George, were run on a single card this year instead of being split up over two days on Presidents Day weekend. The one-day carnival handled $4.92 million, and another $1.85 million was bet on the Monday holiday card. Last year, the two days combined handled $4.9 million.

Handle on Tesio Day was $3.9 million, up 59 percent from 2016.

The Kentucky Derby card Saturday handled $5.2 million, a 48 percent gain from last year's $3.5 million.