Assiniboia Downs enjoys successful season opening night

Assiniboia Downs CEO and president Darren Dunn says it's the second-biggest total the track has ever had, and he's expecting Tuesday to better that. Supplied photo

All things considered, Assiniboia Downs CEO and president Darren Dunn could not have asked for a better start to the 2020 thoroughbred horse racing season in Manitoba on Monday Night.

Dunn joked that there was a lot of room to move out there with no spectators present because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the evening went off without a hitch, operationally, and he credited that to his staff and the horsemen for all being on the same page.

“Communication, transparency was huge to understand that everybody had a role to play, relative to following the protocols we had — which were extensive,” Dunn told 680 CJOB’s Geoff Currier.

“And there was some great numbers to be very proud of last night, where we took this television signal and sold it all over the world.”

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For the sake of comparison, Dunn says, a typical season-opening crowd at the Downs would see more than 10,000, with wagers in the range of $500,000. On Monday night, that amount was doubled.

“Our television signal sales were very robust and we wagered over a million dollars,” said Dunn proudly.

“So it’s a small margin that comes back off of that, but it’s an important step forward in the healing process.”

Needless to say, the opening night results were very encouraging. Dunn says it’s the second-biggest total the track has ever had, and he’s expecting Tuesday to better that.

“Relative to our positioning of Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday night, (it’s) a bit of an odd schedule, but with not having spectators present it gives us a chance to really analyze the competition out there and try and go live when nobody else is. We’re really targeting that with laser focus and it proved to be a smart move last night.”

Dunn feels Assiniboia Downs should be able to maintain that revenue stream for at least a couple of weeks but says literally every second day another horse racing venue is reopening.

As for online watching and wagering continuing as the “new normal”, Dunn feels it’s too early to make that call.

“It makes the most sense right now because everything is online. And that’s where our industry has been trending anyway. Not just locally, but globally.”

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Assiniboia Downs has partnered with which is a product from Woodbine Race Track in Toronto and according to Dunn is the best in Canada.

“It’s a rich suite to be able to watch and wager live and folks have taken a strong liking to it,” says Dunn. “Not only can you wager on Assiniboia Downs, but any race track in the world that’s going, that they have a product agreement with.”

Dunn says in going forward, Assiniboia Downs will follow the lead of the province of what they can and can’t do, but last night and the remainder of this week is a definite step in the right direction.

“It’s taken a long time to get to this, but getting them out of the gate and across the wire safely last night with all the protocols in place was a great sense of relief. I’m so proud of our team to be able to accomplish that and do our part to help kick-start the economy in Manitoba. We’re the first race track in Canada to restart, so a feather in the cap for everybody in Manitoba who helped flatten the curve and allowed us to do that. So we’re very proud of that.”



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