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Dover speedway bets sports betting can give it a boost

4th October, 17:10

If only fans at Firefly Music Festival had purchased more booze, Dover Motor Sports might have made as much money in early 2019 as it had the previous year.

The company that runs Dover International Speedway - and gets a cut of Firefly Music Festival money - reported erratic sales with lower profits for its busy second quarter of 2019.

Now, as it heads into its second major racing weekend of the year, the company hopes a $5.5 million race car garage and an eye toward capitalizing on alcohol sales will help it negotiate a future that is seeping with uncertainty.

The Monster Energy Cup Series race on Oct. 6 is last time for the foreseeable future that the event will be part of the final 10 races that constitute NASCAR's championship playoffs.

When the 2020 schedule was released, Dover's second major race was placed on Aug. 23, the first time it was not scheduled for September or October, and not in the playoffs.

CEO Denis McGlynn said during an earnings call last summer that a boosted sports betting scene in Delaware combined with a NASCAR initiative to embrace the activity should increase interest for racing, particularly among young people.

"Other major sports are attracting new sponsorship revenue from gaming related companies," McGlynn said. "NASCAR wants to do the same."

During the call, McGlynn noted his company enjoyed a financial boost from nearly $19 million in broadcasting money. Yet, it took in less from admissions after a storm had postponed a key race, and from other income, like concessions.

The ultimate result was $24.8 million in revenue, a million less than it took in during the same period the previous year.

Attendance at the races also has been significantly below its already reduced capacity of 85,000, following a national trend.

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In late 2018, auto racing fans were first able to place bets on drivers at Dover International Speedway. At the time, Delaware State Lottery director Vernon Kirk expected "a pretty big jump" in NASCAR betting from the paltry levels he had seen in the months after Delaware legalized single-game sports betting.

Delaware briefly was the darling of the betting world in early 2018 after it became the first state outside of Nevada to allow single-game wagers on sports.

Dover Motor Sports officials did not comment for this story and so it is unclear how much betting activity occurred at the track since last year. But it presumably has not been a windfall given that company revenue outside of broadcasting dropped during last May's races.

That could change as TV networks are beginning to develop content related to betting. FOX is releasing a sports betting app this fall to get up to the minute wagering data, McGlynn noted.

Another option for sports betting is at the race track's neighbor, Dover Downs, a once-struggling casino that McGlynn ran as a separate company until its takeover by Rhode Island-based Twin River Worldwide Holdings early this year.

While Twin River's CEO said in August that Dover Downs has thrived since the change in ownership, its financials appear to show it has transformed into a much smaller operation.

The highly profitable company reported that the Delaware casino brought in $26 million in revenue during the second quarter of 2019, down 41 percent from the year before when it was independently owned and struggling to turn sales into profits.

"This performance exceeded our already high expectations as our initial integration and optimization efforts are yielding immediate results," Twin River CEO said in August.

Shares of the Rhode Island company have fallen 27 percent since its purchase of Dover Downs.

Dover Motor Sports has fared better, but still has seen a decline in value with its shares falling 4.4 percent during the 6-month period.