01/10/2011 1:21PM

Opening-week business rises at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The opening week of the 2011 Gulfstream Park meeting was an unequivocal success both on the racetrack and especially from a business standpoint. Good racing, highlighted by five stakes and large fields, along with perfect weather saw attendance rise 32 percent and total wagering on live races increase 17.2 percent, from $29 million to $34 million, compared to the opening week of the 2010 season. Ontrack handle was up 28.3 percent from a year ago.

Gulfstream’s opening week ran from Wednesday through Sunday. Last year’s figures take into account the first five days of the meet, which opened on a Sunday and then ran Wednesday through Saturday.

Last year’s figures reflect the fact that Gulfstream was unable to accept wagers from seven states in the Mid-Atlantic region due to a simulcast dispute during the opening week of the 2010 season. This year, Gulfstream has not been able to receive wagers from the recently shut down New York City Off- Track Betting Corp.

“It’s been a sensational opening,” said Tim Ritvo, vice president of racing for MI Developments, Gulfstream’s parent company. “Our attendance is up, handle on our product is up across the country, and both the racing and weather have been incredible. Even the business in the poker room and casino showed major increases. In fact our poker room handle was the largest in track history on Saturday.”

Ritvo also said the response to Gulfstream’s two newest wagers, the 50-cent pick five with its 15 percent takeout and the 10-cent pick six, has been very positive.

“We spent considerable time this fall listening to our fans and asking them what they wanted not only in terms of wagering but their ontrack experience,” said Ritvo. “We will remain steadfast in our commitment to improving that experience and providing fans throughout the country the best racing programs possible.”

Ritvo said he was optimistic the trend would continue and if so a purse increase is possible.