Almost three months later than the original start date, the 2020 Evangeline Downs horse racing season will begin Friday at the Opelousas track — one day before Louisiana Downs starts in Bossier City.
Of course, in both instances, the word “open” is a bit misleading, because no fans will be allowed to view the racing live from the stands or anywhere near the track. The sport’s fans, though, will be able to wager on Evangeline Downs races online and at off-track betting facilities across the country, beginning with a 5:50 start time Friday for the nine-race card.
“It’s kind of building on what we started a couple of weeks ago when we were able to get the casino open,” said David Strow, Boyd Gaming vice president of corporate communications.
“It’s exciting to finally be able to resume operations at Evangeline Downs and get racing back on track. We’re in the bit of a new normal right now, so not everything is the way that we’re accustomed. But we’re exciting to be able to open our racing calendar. There are still ways for our fans to enjoy the races.”
Like sports organizations across the country, Evangeline Downs has no idea when horse racing will resume at the track in Opelousas.
Because of the delayed start, Evangeline Downs’ racing schedule will only include 50 days this summer, instead of the original plan of 84 days. The summer’s meet is still scheduled to end Saturday, Aug. 29.
The 2020 season at EvD was originally scheduled to begin April 8.
While no fans will be allowed in the track area, they'll have several ways for fans to view the races. For one, the races will be shown on televisions in the property’s restaurants and bars. There will also be “self-betting kiosks throughout the property” to allow fans to be at the casino and bet on the races there.
“Again, it’s not what we’re accustomed to, but there are ways for our fans to watch the races,” Strow said.
And for racing fans really anxious to view the actual races with their own eyes, there’s another unique option as well.
“If you go into certain parts of the parking lot at Evangeline Downs, you’re actually able to see the race track,” Strow suggested. ”So if people actually do want to see the race, they’re more than welcome to park in that parking lot and watch the race from their cars. It’s not ideal, but it is a way to see the race live if you’re interested.”
Friday night marks the end of a three-month drought of live sporting events in the Acadiana area, and it’s not surprising that horse racing is what breaks the spell.
Throughout the shutdown, tracks across the nation continued to run without fans.
Winnings by casinos in the Baton Rouge market were down by nearly 58% in March from a year ago, as mid-month closures of the state’s gambling …
In Florida, the Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream both continued racing, as did Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma and Fonner Park in Nebraska. Oaklawn in Arkansas also concluded its season in May.
The Evangeline Downs casino, located on the track’s property in Opelousas, has been open for two weeks but lost revenue during the coronavirus shutdown. That is expected to impact the purses this summer.
The Louisiana Legends weekend was originally scheduled for last weekend. It remains unclear if those stakes races will be rescheduled later in the summer. The Evangeline Mile was originally scheduled for June 27.
Strow said the track is waiting on direction from the state on when or if fans will be allowed into the track later in the summer or beyond.
“We’re waiting on direction from the state as to whether a new phase would allow us to have people in the stands and allow us to open the betting windows,” Strow said. “I can’t really speculate on that because that’s not really our call, but we’ll be ready to go when they are.”
Gambling industry officials said that Monday’s reopening of some riverboat casinos and video poker truck stops was “a really good start.”
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