A few months ago, Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn was not sure if the local horse racing industry could survive the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his staff, in conjunction with the Manitoba government, set out to devise a plan to somehow stay afloat and it involved selling the local racing signal around the world in hopes of increasing online wagering. There would be no fans at the Downs in 2020 and they had to move their racing nights from weekends to Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays but at least there was an opportunity to bring in revenue from global wagering. They opened racing on May 25 and it didn’t take long to realize the plan was a stunning success. “What we drew up on paper we were able to execute in spades,” Dunn said Thursday, a day after the 18th racing day of the season at the Downs.
Assinboia Downs is racing to start up again — and may become the first horse racing track in the country to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. In just two weeks, jockeys will be competing at the Winnipeg horse racing track three nights per week — but the stands will remain empty.
Peguis First Nation and the Manitoba Jockey Club are teaming up to turn the Assiniboia Downs into an urban reserve. The plan is to create an entertainment hub, with hotels, restaurants, shops and possibly a casino. The new development would complement the existing race track.
Wagering on the 50-day season was $35,622 per race compared to $33,997 last year, an increase of 4.78 per cent. This included partner wagering from other racing venues in North America which carried Assiniboia Downs races.