Attendance down, wagering up at 2015 Del Mar summer meet

Attendance was down at this summer’s horse racing meet at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but the total amount of money bet on races was up thanks to satellite and Internet wagering.

“Overall, it was a successful meet,” Josh Rubinstein, executive vice president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said at a meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the day after the 40-day summer race meet closed.

Attendance at the 2015 summer race meet was 582,000, compared to 595,000 in 2014, or a decline of 2 percent, Rubinstein said after the meeting.

One factor in the attendance drop-off was the weather during opening weekend in July, when San Diego County experienced lightning, thunder and rain.

“You don’t want to make excuses... but we’ve never had rain impact the summer meet,” Rubinstein said.

Due to the inclement weather, attendance on opening weekend was down about 50 percent, from the typical 45,000 to about 23,000.

“We definitely started out in a bit of a hole,” Rubinstein said.

Another factor in the drop in average daily attendance, said Rubinstein, was the addition last year of a fall racing meet to Del Mar’s schedule. That turned Del Mar from a “boutique” race meet to “a major player in the horse racing industry in California,” Rubinstein said.

This year’s five-week fall meet begins on Oct. 29.

While attendance was down, the overall “handle,” or amount wagered on horse races at Del Mar, was up 10 percent during this year’s summer meet, to $486 million, Rubinstein said. Most of the handle comes from off-site bets, such as wagers placed in satellite betting centers, Las Vegas casinos, Indian casinos and online betting sites.

Internet wagering alone was up 16 percent during the summer meet, Rubinstein said.

One draw for the 2015 summer meet was the presence of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Although the champion did not race at Del Mar, he did work out during the meet, and parade before fans between races on Sunday, Sept. 6. Fans were given posters of American Pharoah on Sunday as well.

“It was a real benefit to have him on the grounds,” Rubinstein said at the 22nd DAA board meeting.