(July 10, 2020) Live harness racing started this Monday at Ocean Downs Racetrack on Route 589 for the 71st season, but it will be a season unlike any other, as all race viewing is inside the clubhouse.

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Live harness racing returned to Ocean Downs Racetrack on Route 589 on Monday, but spectators will not be allowed to watch the races outside this season due to the governor’s executive order restricting large gatherings.

“We had a decent number of people that came out to enjoy wagering inside the clubhouse,” said Bobbi Jones, director of marketing for Ocean Downs Casino. “It was a little quieter than normal, obviously, because we don’t have any crowds outside to watch the races. Any of the viewing was done inside the clubhouse.” 

Spectators are not permitted outside for live racing as part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s March 12 executive order that restricted large gatherings. 

“So, we have seating inside our clubhouse based on our occupancy, of course,” Jones aid.

According to the governor’s executive order on June 10, a gaming facility’s occupancy cannot exceed 50 percent of its maximum occupancy at any time.  

Jones added that the clubhouse did not reach maximum capacity on the first night.

Other differences during this racing season include mandatory face coverings and the cancellation of special events.

“We had a full calendar of exciting stuff we were going to do this year,” Jones said. “Everything’s on hold. Until we can get the green light that spectators can be back out again, we’re not going to be doing any special events.”

The Clubhouse Turn, which offers trackside dining, is open from 12-11 p.m. on live racing days. Spectators can wager inside the clubhouse.

Pacers restaurant is closed for the 2020 racing season.

Spectators can wager on Twin Spires, according to the Ocean Downs Casino Facebook page. 

“I know a lot of people are disappointed,” Jones said. “It’s a big family event every year when people come to Ocean City … I know it’s been a part of the culture and a part of people’s vacation for years. So, I know a lot of people are disappointed that they don’t have that opportunity right now.”

Races will take place on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for July and August. The post time is 6:15 p.m.

“[Post time] is a little earlier than we’d do normally if we had spectators,” Jones said.

In September, there will be races on Saturday, Jones added.

Jones said the number of races each night varies depending on races that are lined up.

“In the past, I think we’ve done 10 or 12, so it will still be within that range,” she said.

Race qualifiers for pacers and trotters take place each Thursday.

There are no age restrictions for watching the races inside the clubhouse as long as minors are accompanied by an adult.  

Currently, Ocean Downs Casino has a gaming promotion for new members, 21 years old and over.

“[If] they want to get a Player’s Club Card, they can and upon signing up … we have a game they can play, and they can win up to $500 in free play. They can also, every time they earn 100 points, go back and play again for that chance up to 10 times.” 

For more information about gaming and racing, visit www.oceandowns.com or call 410-641-0600.

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