Ocean Downs is a racino in Berlin, Maryland, near Ocean City. The Ocean Downs race track opened in August 1949 and the new 45 million dollar Casino at Ocean Downs opened in 2011. The harness racing track is 1/2 mile in length with a stretch length of 440 feet and width of 70 feet.
Ocean Downs History
Ocean Downs in Berlin, Maryland, is a top-class harness racing facility and simulcast wagering establishment. Offering a full calendar of live racing during the season, Ocean Downs Raceway is particularly popular amongst vacationers holidaying on the east coast. Just 6 miles from Ocean City, Ocean Downs Racetrack is in a convenient location and offers great harness racing, excellent simulcasting and fantastic facilities.
Ocean Downs was opened in August 1949 when it hosted 20 racing nights. A Clubhouse was later built beside the grandstand in 1981. In 1995 Mr. Bonebreaker and his rider Jim Porter set the world record for the 1/2 mile open trot. The following year, 1996, Sanabelle Island impressed many with her first year achievements. She won 2 Maryland Sire Stakes plus another 15 races, going down in history as a top pacing mare. The Ocean Downs clubhouse was renovated in 2001 to include the Pacers Restaurant and a video wall.
Ocean Downs' live harness racing schedule runs from July to August. The total area of the property is 170 acres, on which you will find a 1/2 mile harness racing track with a stretch length of 440 feet and width of 70 feet. Ocean Downs Racetrack's speed rating is 2:01. The banking on the turns of the raceway are 6 to 8 degrees. Each live harness racing season boasts 40 nights of exciting racing events. Amongst these are the Isle of Wight Bay, Hal Belote Memorial, C'mon Tuff Guy, Austin Thomas Memorial, The Bay Bridge Pacing Series, Alan Myer Memorial, Ocean City Pacing Series, Miss Conna Adios, Robbert Cotton Jr. Memorial and others. Ocean Downs' daily post time is 7:20 pm.
Complementing the outstanding harness racing at Ocean Downs are superb facilities. The establishment has a capacity to seat some 5,000 eager racing fans in the clubhouse and grandstand. There are 40 mutuel windows as well as 20 self-service wagering machines. For the convenience of racegoers the facility has 2 ATMs. The latest improvements at Ocean Downs raceway include lighting of walkways and a better track surface. Simulcasting is available daily throughout the year at Ocean Downs from 12:00 noon until midnight. Broadcasting from 60 harness and thoroughbred race tracks around the USA and Canada, Ocean Downs offers many opportunities for simulcast wagering. Other live sport broadcasts are football, baseball, basketball and hockey. In addition to these amenities, Ocean Downs offers exquisite dining at Pacers Restaurant, Clubhouse Turn and Winners Circle Lounge as well as at 4 concession stands.
Work on Ocean Downs began in November 1947, with plans to open the following summer, but they were delayed due to construction difficulties. Completed at a cost of $650,000, Ocean Downs opened on July 25, 1949. The track struggled initially, losing $85,000 in its first two seasons, owing to its remote location compared to the three other harness tracks. The MGA attempted to help by raising the takeout three times in ten years. Rumors surfaced Ocean Downs might switch to thoroughbred racing, and an apparent schism over the idea led to the resignation of half of the board of directors in 1957.
The racing seasons at Ocean Downs and the other harness tracks were continually extended over the years to keep pace with other mid-Atlantic tracks. By 1984, harness racing was a year-round sport in Maryland, with Ocean Downs open from May to September. In 1986, the MRC expressed grave concerns about the maintenance of Ocean Downs and said it might not approve the continued licensure of the track's management. Under pressure, the track's president, John Howard Burbage, sold his 68 percent stake to Rosecroft Raceway for $2 million. The track was renamed as Delmarva Downs the following year. In 1987, real estate developer Mark Vogel bought Rosecroft Raceway, and Delmarva Downs along with it. Vogel allegedly diverted funds from the tracks to support failed real estate ventures, and filed for bankruptcy after being arrested on drug charges. California philanthropist Frederick Weisman bought the two tracks out of bankruptcy in 1991.
Under Weisman's company, Colt Enterprises, the two tracks continued to fare poorly, losing a total of $4 million in two years, prompting Weisman to place both racetracks up for sale in 1993. Weisman died the next year, and the trustees of his estate were reluctant to invest more money in the tracks, intensifying the need for a buyer. An initial sale agreement was reached with the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, a group of 1,400 mid-Atlantic horsemen, for a total of $11 million, pending financing. With the deal still pending, Delmarva did not open in May for the 1995 season. Casino operator Bally Entertainment, hoping that Maryland would legalize slot machines at racetracks, entered with a $12 million offer for a controlling interest in the two tracks, with Cloverleaf buying a small stake. Joe De Francis, president of Pimlico and Laurel Park, fearful of outside control of the state's racing industry, made a competing offer of a $1 million loan to help Cloverleaf complete its purchase. The horsemen declined both offers, wary that Bally might have no need to continue racing after a casino were opened. Instead, a deal was reached under which Bally lent Cloverleaf $10.8 million to buy the tracks, and agreed to operate the tracks for seven years, with an option to purchase a 50 percent share if slots were legalized. Delmarva reopened under its new ownership in July.
Management changed the name back to Ocean Downs in 1996, stating that "nobody related to the name of Delmarva", and that it was sometimes confused with Del Mar Racetrack. By late 1996, Cloverleaf was losing $1.2 million annually, mostly at Ocean Downs, and the horsemen were unhappy with Bally's management of Rosecroft. Two months of negotiations were held over restructuring Cloverleaf's debts, selling Ocean Downs to Bally, and turning over operation of Rosecroft to Cloverleaf. A competing offer for the two tracks came from William Rickman, owner of Delaware Park, and De Francis expressed interest as well. A deal was finally reached, which included Bally buying Ocean Downs for $2 million, and agreeing to continue live racing there, contingent on certain legislative relief. The sale was completed in May 1997.
Bally quickly "launched a war" against the state's thoroughbred racetracks, ending its simulcasting of thoroughbred races, and proposing to open an off-track betting parlor in Hagerstown without sharing revenues with the other tracks. That proposal was rejected by the Racing Commission, and a new simulcast agreement was reached in April 1998, prompting De Francis to remark that the two sides were finally "working in a peacful and cooperative manner".
In 2000, Rickman agreed to buy Ocean Downs from Bally for $5.1 million, including $2.5 million to be put in escrow to cover the track's operating costs. Cloverleaf initially exercised a right of first refusal that it had negotiated as part of the sale to Bally, to be financed by a loan from the Maryland Jockey Club. Cloverleaf and MJC had partnered in a statewide revenue sharing agreement, and hoped to protect their monopoly on Maryland racing, but after performing due diligence, decided the track was losing too much money, and needed too many capital improvements. They stepped aside, and Rickman completed the purchase.
Maryland voters in 2008 approved a referendum to allow slot machines at five casinos, with one license allotted to Worcester County. Ocean Downs was the only applicant for the spot and was approved for 800 machines. The casino opened in January 2011 with 750 machines.
The Casino at Ocean Downs offers a premier entertainment facility in the heart of Maryland's beach resort community with 750 slot machines and live seasonal harness racing. Ocean Downs Racetrack is nearing its 65th year of exciting night racing and continues to draw some of the biggest audiences for harness racing in the US.
Ocean Downs Live Horse Racing Schedule
June - September
Post Time at Ocean Downs
7:20pm - Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and Friday
Ocean Downs Track Code
Ocean Downs Wagering
$2.00 WPS, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Daily Double, and Pick 3
$1.00 Key, Box, and Wheel bets
Current Weather Conditions at Ocean Downs
Ocean Downs Contact Information
10218 Race Track Road
Berlin, MD 21811
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