Saratoga Hosts Belmont Stakes, NY Racing Eyes Betting Revenue Boost

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Belmont Stakes betting

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – The New York Racing Association (NYRA) expects to begin recouping some of its betting revenue losses Saturday when its two strongest brands converge, as Saratoga Race Course hosts the Belmont Stakes for the first time.

Through May, betting on NYRA races is down more than 14% compared to the first five months of 2023. According to data from the racing association, horseplayers have staked $500.1 million on NYRA races this year. That is down from $584 million at this point last year.

The declining handle was not a surprise leading into Belmont Stakes betting, though. In March, NYRA CEO David O’Rourke told the New York State Franchise Oversight Board that weaker revenue was expected with more live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack while Belmont Park was under construction.

Belmont Stakes betting on horizon

The Belmont Stakes is NYRA’s strongest horse betting brand, followed by the summer racing season in Saratoga.

Chief revenue officer Tony Allevato anticipates betting will pick up with four days of live racing this week at the upstate New York track, given the strength of both the Belmont Stakes and Saratoga.

“There is definitely something to be said about the brands within horse racing,” Allevato said. “You can take the same 20 horses from the Kentucky Derby, have them run at another track, and it will not have the same wagering power because the Kentucky Derby is the strongest brand in horse racing. While it’s a smaller scale, the same applies to Belmont.”

Weaker New York racing brands

NYRA views its three racetracks and the Belmont Stakes as individual brands. Aqueduct in New York City is the weakest of the four.

“We anticipated this decline in the betting because of the long period we are running at Aqueduct. We can’t run as many turf races because that grass gets chewed up,” Allevato said. “Not being able to run at Belmont because of the redevelopment project limits the number of races we can run on the grass. Traditionally, we get bigger fields and more betting on turf races.”

Horse betting handle during the spring season, which is typically held at Belmont Park, is down 20%, as NYRA expected. Horseplayers bet $134.7 million during the 16-day spring meet this year, down from $168.4 million last year.

NYRA has also run 16 fewer races this year compared to 2023 despite having the same 77 days of racing through May in both years.

Growing Belmont Stakes betting menu

The first two legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, offer future wagers. Each generated record-high handle this year.

Right now, future wagers on the Belmont Stakes are not on the betting menu. Allevato said they have to work with the state gaming commission, but fans want it. Expanding the options for bettors can boost future revenue.

“We definitely want to do it, and we would look at the Travers Stakes as well,” he said. “The fans take a lot of interest in it. It’s also a great conversation piece for what we do on the FOX Sports broadcast.”

The New York State Gaming Commission declined to comment on Belmont Stakes future bets when reached last week.

New Belmont Stakes building with sports betting sponsors

Another opportunity for NYRA to make up lost revenue is at the redeveloped Belmont Park when it opens in 2026.

The racing association is already discussing partnerships and marketing deals with multiple sports betting brands at the redesigned facility.

“The interest in a state-of-the-art facility in the New York City area is very appealing to the sportsbooks,” Allevato said. “The final juggling act will be making sure everyone who partners with us has the opportunity to get exactly what they want.”

Horse betting upgrades coming soon

Following the Belmont Stakes, NYRA plans to announce a series of upgrades to its horse betting app, NYRA Bets.

Allevato said NYRA Bets will receive a facelift within the next 12 months. The app is also expected to expand into New Jersey in the coming months. State regulations currently limit Garden State residents to a single horse betting platform, offered by FanDuel.

“The reality of where we’re at is important, but you can’t just take that and move on,” Allevato said. “We’re looking at what people are betting, what they’re not betting, what we could do to provide a bonus in certain pools. We need to always find ways to be better.” 

NYRA Bets is the title sponsor of New Jersey’s most popular horse race, The Haskell Stakes, on July 20.

Photo by AP/Julia Nikhinson