The Baltimore Orioles and Alexandria Mariners baseball teams said yesterday the gasoline shortage has increased their attendance, but the Pimlico and Charles Town race tracks said they have been hit hard.
The Washington Diplomats soccer team expects to benefits from customers influenced to stay closer to home.
Hugh Mellon of Charles Town described that track's situation as "terrible." He estimated that attendance and the betting handle are down 20 percent, citing a betting handle of $406,000 Sunday as compared with $500,000 for the previous Sunday.
"It is hard to take a pulse because we were open Sunday, but not on Monday," Mellon said. "We had a meeting on Tuesday with gas station operators and they say they are some stations with no problems; no one will get stranded. It has hit us bad because it is a rural situation.
"We don't have a horse-shipping problem; we don't get a lot of shippers."
Chick Lang of Pimlico said, " We have had a decline in attendance the last eight days. We had the lowest attendance of the meeting on Tuesday, 5,921, after the first gasless Saturday.
"Attendance is off 1.8 percent from 1978, but we were up 1.5 percent in our betting handle. That's because we have more types of betting pools this year.
"We have laid off some people in the mutuels department and police, ushers and car parkers.
"Our average attendance last year was 10,644 daily. So the gas crunch has hurt us. Some of it revolves around the weather, and we get as many as 25 percent of our customers from the Washington area.
"We do group business from social clubs as far away as Richmond. We have had six or seven cancellations involving 400 to 500 people. Some racing officials, trainers, and others are carpooling.
"We have horses stabled at Pimlico and some at Bowie and Laurel which are vanned back and forth daily. We pay those freight costs but the van people are complaining about the increased cost of diesel fuel."
John Blake of the Orioles said the effect of the gasoline shortage is "a positive one; people are afraid to take long trips, say, to the beaches.
"In fact, the shortage is helping us. We had our fifth-best three-game series attendance ever, 101,000, for the visit by the Texas Rangers. We scheduled a give-away night for Friday, June 8, because we did not expect to do so wwell, but had 47,539.
"Of course, some of it has to do with the team playing so well. But Washington-area people think of Baltimore being so close, as against the beaches.
"We operate buses for those fans from the Beltway Plaza on Sundays and they're very popular; they save car gas. There are buses for in-Baltimore fans on special nights. We'll probably get into more of both bus services.
"For the upcoming weekend visit by the Detroit Tiges and new Manager Sparky Anderson we're projecting 25,000 for Friday, 30,000 for a doubleheader on Saturday and 35,000 for Sunday, our 25th anniversary, when we will have an Old-Timers Day."
Bob Siegrist of the Mariners said, "Our attendance is ahead of last year. We had 1,0005 on Saturday. We think the fans' concern about gas has had a beneficial effect. They say, 'Let's have fun closer to home.'"
Steve Ranklin of the Diplomats said, "Last Sunday was our first home game since the gas lines started, so it is very hard to say what the effect is, but more people are staying in town."
Sunday's crowd, in the rain, was 9,924.
"We have had no major problems yet. We will get a better feel about the effect on fans on Sunday when Philadelphia comes here," said Rankin.