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Assiniboia Downs opening to fully vaccinated bettors, spectators

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For the first time since September of 2019, in-person betting and spectators at 50% capacity will be allowed at Assiniboia Downs, starting next week.

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Fully vaccinated spectators will be allowed to watch live horse racing from the main floor and the outdoor tarmac at the Downs, starting Monday.

“This is a place that is built to house fans and a sport that is meant to have on-site attendance and large and raucous crowds,” Downs CEO Darren Dunn said in an interview with the Sun. “It’s been anything but that the last couple years. It’s been, more than anything, resembling a library more than a sporting venue. That’s something we can’t wait to change.”

Proof of immunization is required and masks are required for people using the indoor parts of the facility, including wagering stations. The Terrace Dining Room and VLT lounge will be open at reduced capacity.

The Downs holds its races on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the season runs through to Sept. 15.

Only very limited in-person betting and spectators been allowed at the Downs since the beginning of the 2020 racing season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Terrace Dining Room was able to open at 25% capacity at times and people could watch races from there.

However the Downs has been doing very well because it was able to sell its live racing signal globally while using the HPIbet.com online portal.

In 2020, the Downs shattered the previous record for wagering, with a total of $63.26 million over just 50 race days. The previous record for wagering at the Downs was $53,394,913, set over 135 race days in 1981.

Dunn said wagering is down considerably this year though.

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“Overall satisfied and pleased, but we’re not going to set any records like we did last year, that’s for sure,” he said.

“We’ve been able to achieve numbers that work for us. They are significantly down from last year, but we knew they would be.”

Dunn said last year the Downs did particularly well when most other sports and many race tracks around the world were shut down. This year, all the tracks are back and running and there’s a plethora of sports going on for television viewers and those who like to wager.

“Horse race fans are bettors who like to analyze and think, so they’re sports bettors, poker players, sports bettors and when you put all of that on the table, you have to work very hard to carve out your slice of the pie,” Dunn said. “We’ve done that, we’re sound, we’re stable, we’re in a good position past the mid-point of the meet and we’re still holding strong but the difference in competition from last year to this year is meaningful.”

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