There was something seen Saturday at Aqueduct that is rarely seen this time of year.
Lines. Lines at the mutuel windows. Lines at the food concessions. Though perhaps not enjoyable for those who had to stand and wait in those lines, the sight of people at the racetrack was encouraging to New York Racing Association officials who are trying to cope with the potential significant loss of business due to the closure of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. on Wednesday.
A crowd of 5,444 attended the races at Aqueduct on Saturday, a 61-percent increase over last year's attendance of 3,378 for the corresponding Saturday. The ontrack handle of $1,065,015 was up 21 percent from the $882,760 wagered ontrack last year. All-sources handle was $8,798,355, down 7 percent from last year's $9,491,999 last year.
Intrastate handle was down $1,122,938 from last year with $1,044,255 of that having been handled at NYC OTB, according to NYRA statistics. Interstate handle was $6.4 million, a 4-percent increase from last year.
"I thought today exceeded my expectations a little bit," said Charles Hayward, NYRA president and CEO. "It was nice to see the place packed."
A total of 164 patrons took advantage of NYRA's free bus service from select OTB locations in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island to Aqueduct. That service will be expanded beginning Wednesday - see nyra.com for details - but is not offered for dark-day simulcasting. Also, NYRA signed up an additional 105 NYRA Rewards Accounts on Saturday with "hundreds" more inquiries.
Due to Saturday's large crowd, NYRA was expected to open two additional concession stands at Aqueduct on Sunday. Also, Sunday, NYRA was to begin its experiment with opening Belmont Park's first floor, the Belmont Café, as a simulcast facility. On Monday and Tuesday, both Belmont and Aqueduct will be open for dark-day simulcasting.
Hayward said that he feels NYRA has made progress with New York City officials in its attempt to restore the signal to Channel 71, the channel formerly utilized by NYC OTB in the five boroughs.
"We're hopeful to get it back on Wednesday," Hayward said.
As far as the video-streaming of NYRA's races on-line, that is something that is still being discussed.
Hayward said he sent a letter to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board proposing a 120-day pilot program, during which any regulated in-state advanced deposit wagering entity could video stream NYRA's races.
"We're hoping to resolve that one way or another next week," Hayward said.