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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy 110th Yonkers, Leaks in the VLT Gravy Train

Everyone complains that racinos don't care about racing; all they want is their slot revenue. I will certainly concede this point when you are talking about racinos operated by gaming companies but there is at least one racino promoting racing. Yesterday, in The Record, the daily newspaper in Bergen and Passaic Counties in New Jersey (yes, the Meadowlands backyard), there was a half page advertisement in the sports section from Empire City Casino/Yonkers Raceway. Just what we need, another advertisement for the VLTs at Yonkers. Wait, the main goal of this advertisement is to celebrate the 110th Anniversary of Yonkers Raceway? Photos of horse racing and warming up? Not one picture of a slot machine? Yes, there was mention of a promotion if you play the slots on one particularl evening in September, but make no mistake about it, the focus was harness racing. Like every racino, marketing is primarily directed to the slot players as they are paying the bills, but at least at Yonkers Raceway, there is a commitment to racing; racing is not just a necessary evil to have slots.

In another case illustrating the fragility of VLT revenue, Delaware Park, the thoroughbred track in Delaware, announced their intention to shorten their current meet by seven days due to the state of Delaware cutting the amount of slot revenue dedicated to purses by 10% this year. In consultation with the horsemen, the decision was made to cut the meet short instead of cutting the purses being paid out. While this seems to be a relatively innocuous cut, it shows racing should not take the VLT gravy train for granted.

Bad news for New Jersey and Pennsylvania racetracks, it seems the budget impasse in Pennsylvania has eliminated some objections in the legislature regarding introducing table games at the racetracks and stand-alone casinos. The bad news is obvious for New Jersey; another reason for gambling dollars to head over to Pennsylvania instead of being wagered at New Jersey racetracks (and casinos). The news is not good for Pennsylvania horsemen either; unlike the VLTs, current proposals make no provisions for any table game revenue to be dedicated to purses so horsemen will find their purse accounts being reduced.

Eliminations for the Canadian Trotting Classic tonight at Mohawk Racetrack. Muscle Hill draws post position nine and is listed with a 1-5 morning line in his elimination. Explosive Matter is 2-1 in his elimination. Looks like we will have a Muscle Hill - Explosive Matter rematch next week. After two soft races, next week looks like the first tough race for Muscle Hill since the Hambletonian so it will be interesting to see if Explosive Matter will be able to turn the tables on him.

We are just a week away from Jug Week at the Delaware County Fair. This year the Delaware County Fair is not simulcasting the first two days; only simulcasting Tuesday thru Thursday. Some people are upset that the first two days will not be simulcasted but there is so little interest in the first two days of racing (it is basically horses racing on the Ohio fair circuits) that the Delaware Agricultural Society will save $30,000 by not offering the card to outside sources. People need to remember at county fairs, racing (where it has not been discontinued) is only part of the fair experience. If the first two days were simulcasted the fair would have to cut something else from the fair program to cover the $30,000 loss. While we, as racing purists, would love to see all five days simulcasted, we need to recognize that the Society made the right decision.

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