Belmont Stakes purse shrinks as coronavirus hurts ticket sales, casino revenue

Pandemic has chipped away at traditional revenue streams for live sporting events

Entrants at the 152nd running of the Belmont Stakes will compete for a reduced winner’s purse Saturday as horse racing and other live sporting events adjust to the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The annual Triple Crown race at Belmont Park in New York will run without fans in attendance, effectively erasing revenue from ticket sales. The ongoing closure of casinos in New York state due to the pandemic created further financial difficulties.

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The purse at the 2020 Belmont Stakes is $1 million. Compensation is down one- third compared to last year’s race, which featured a $1.5 million purse.

"The Belmont Stakes is a New York institution that will provide world-class entertainment for sports fans during these challenging times," NYRA President & CEO Dave O'Rourke said in a statement in May. "While this will certainly be a unique running of this historic race, we are grateful to be able to hold the Belmont Stakes in 2020.”

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While the pandemic has chipped away at traditional revenue streams for live sporting events, broadcast partnerships and online gambling remain largely intact. Last year’s Belmont race day drew $102 million in wagers, $91 million of which came through off-track betting.

Empty stands are just one of several adjustments at this year’s event. The race will be run at a distance of one and one-eighth miles, rather than its traditional length of one and a half miles. Officials said the change was made to account for changes in training schedules. It marks the first distance change for the Belmont Stakes since 1926.

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In another historic switch, the 2020 edition of the Belmont Stakes will serve as the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown rather than the last. The traditional first leg, the Kentucky Derby, was rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5, while the Preakness Stakes was rescheduled for Oct. 3.

As of Thursday evening, Tiz the Law was the betting favorite at Belmont with 6-5 odds. The 2020 Belmont Stakes runs on Saturday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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