Meadows racing handle rises 15 percent

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Talk about a wire-to-wire victory.


Financially, the 2012 racing season at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino was a winner across the board. The track experienced a 15 percent spike in all-sources handle, and a rise in payoffs for winning – at a time when many harness tracks nationwide have been foundering or floundering.


The handle is the total amount of money wagered on a day of racing.


“Everything seemed to go our way in 2012,” said Mike Jeannot, president of Meadows Racing. “I think the numbers are an accumulation of good things that have happened since the casino came in. It’s a great facility and a great draw.


“The two businesses have worked really well together.”


Bettors made 2012 a better year at the North Strabane Township track. The average daily handle was $501,550, a per-card increase of $65,000-plus from 2011.


That half-million-dollar figure is well above the $365,886 race-day average at all U.S. harness tracks last year, according to the United States Trotting Association.


“This ($501,550 handle) is the high point since simulcasting (televising races to other tracks around the country) started here in the mid-1990s,” Jeannot said. “We were one of the first tracks in the state to simulcast and we did well. The numbers plummeted when other tracks started to simulcast, but we’re back up.”


Besides a boost from casino patrons, he attributed this rise to an emphasis in having “full, competitive (racing) fields that yield the kind of payoffs bettors want.” A wide range of wagering options also likely boosted the amounts of winnings.


The average win payoff was $12.78 for the year, up from $12.66 in 2011. Winning horses went out at odds greater than 5-1, another favorable figure in the harness industry.


Jeannot said this prosperity also benefits the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, which represents the horsemen and horsewomen at the track, and the economies of Pennsylvania and the local region. The state receives taxes on the pari-mutuel handle and its breeding industry gets a boost, and a number of Meadows patrons are likely to go to area restaurants and/or hotels.


This financial news is the culmination of an eventful year for the track operation of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, owned by Cannery Casino Resorts of Las Vegas.


Six state-of-the-art barns, costing $6.25 million, were built; green initiatives were undertaken, including the recycling of frying oil for conversion to biodiesel fuel; harness driver Dave Palone established the North American record for victories; and trainer/driver Dick Stillings, a veteran at the track, was inducted into harness racing’s Living Hall of Fame.


The current season started Jan. 3 and already is eventful – the 50th anniversary of the track.


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