For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'll Have a Beer and an Exacta Please

That is what we may hear a year from now in New Jersey if Jeff Gural gets his way.  According to Harness Racing Update (And why do I have to provide a link; it is a must read publications and it's free?), Jeff Gural is proposing legislation to allow SAM machines into bars in New Jersey to help promote wagering in the state.  You would buy a voucher from your friendly bar keeper, make your bets and cash out on the way home for the evening.  If you need further proof that the thoroughbred and standardbred forces will settle their disagreement on Meadowlands' thoroughbred wagers, Jeff Gural has been talking to the likely leaseholder of Monmouth Park about jointly supporting such legislation with a 65%-35% of revenue going to the thoroughbred industry.

Would this cannibalize the OTWs?  I don't think so.  First of all, no one says they are going to license a bar five blocks away from an OTW, but it may be away to expand gaming's reaches outside of the traditional avenues; call them mini-OTWs; areas too small to be served by an OTW but enough population to make it financially practical to offer SAM machines.  This may be the best way to expand gambling's reach within the state.

Let's fact it, the United States is too conservative to allow customers to go to their local news store to buy a ticket for the V75 or other exotic wager, but in a location already limited to adults, I believe it is possible.   Of course, we would be naive to think that Atlantic City casino interests may not have objections to such legislation.

Once a lease is signed regarding the Meadowlands, things will become really exciting in New Jersey and the excitement will not necessarily be on the track.  If Monmouth Park, the Meadowlands, and Freehold Raceway work together which I suspect they will, a whole new model of wagering on horse racing is going to be generated in New Jersey to the benefit of horsemen of all breeds.

I rarely disagree with Andrew Cohen, harness racing columnist for Harness Racing Update, but today is one of those days.  Andrew takes umbrage at Chester Downs for scheduling a special Saturday race card to start after the  Kentucky Derby, claiming it hurts the Meadowlands and shows a lack of cooperation between the two tracks; leaving the blame for the problem on Chester Downs.  True Chester Downs, doesn't normally race on Saturdays, but the fact is many tracks schedule their racing around the Derby.  Someone should try to compete against the Derby?  Forget about it, all you are going to do is get the remnants of wagering handle.  But let's look at the tracks which have adopted a Kentucky Derby strategy:
Meadowlands and Tioga both are reopening on Kentucky Derby day to take advantage of the marketing opportunity.  Chester Downs decides to race on a day when they probably will have their largest simulcast audience at the track who may decide to try their product (Does Chester want to have racing?  Probably not, but if they have to, they may as well put the best card on they can).  Pocono Downs: Has a special 5pm post time on Triple Crown days. The only track with a truly unique Derby strategy is Northfield Park which cancelled harness racing on Saturdays so they could bring in full card simulcasting from Churchill Downs.

When the Meadowlands opened, did they take it easy on Yonkers Raceway, Liberty Bell Park and Brandywine Raceway?  Hardly; they ate them for lunch and spit them out.  To race on the most lucrative day of the year, is fair game regardless who does it.

It is not what happens this weekend which matters.  For sure, the Meadowlands may take lumps today with the best horses short of the Cutler and Graduate racing elsewhere, but they will still have the deepest pools; it is more the casual players who will be changing allegiance to play the Chester Program.  What matters is what happens on a daily basis after the Meadowlands is leased.  Will Jeff Gural be able to work out a schedule with Harrah's to allow the Meadowlands meet in the winter maximum exposure and avoid competition?  Will Gural be able to work out an understanding with the Rooney's to maximize the racing programs at both Yonkers and the Meadowlands?  One day means nothing, it is what happens long term that matters.

Remember, tomorrow after the Derby hoopla, we begin our two part series analyzing the second HANA Survey.  You won't want to miss the findings.  If you look at the last couple of days, you will see my selections of the big races of the week, opening weekend at Tioga Downs and the $15,000 Pick 4 at Cal-Expo this evening.  Whatever your pleasure, have a great weekend and hopefully it will be profitable..


Scott Jeffreys said...

Dear Pacingguy : You wrote "When the Meadowlands opened, did they take it easy on Yonkers Raceway, Liberty Bell Park and Brandywine Raceway? Hardly; they ate them for lunch and spit them out."

That approach cost the game Roosevelt Raceway, Liberty Bell Park, and Brandywine Raceway. Harness racing paid dearly losing those three venues. As some would say, that's history.

Fine, history point taken. So, let's modify your sentence.

"When Chester opened, did they take it easy on the Meadowlands and Freehold? Hardly; they ate them for lunch and spit them out."

Get the point?

If Harrahs' Chester and Mohegan Sun's Pocono Downs are the two big money tracks, outside of the Yonkers half-miler, is that really the end game you want to see? Not me. When Harrahs and Mohegan Sun pull the subsidies for the game (following the New Jersey model), then what do you have left?

Be very aware, laissez-faire capitalism only works when EVERYONE has the same ability to compete. State based regulation of what should be a national game prevents competition.

We learned the lesson of what the Meadowlands did to other tracks in the late 70s. Not having learned the lesson to prevent the final death call some thirty years later is irresponsible.

Sincerely, Scott

Pacingguy said...


You are certainly correct in that the Meadowlands is competing with one hand tied behind the back. That being said, Chester and Pocono are paying out purses like this because they are required to by statute. Even if they wanted to play it easy on the Meadowlands, they can't.

And as for racing on Kentucky Derby evening, these tracks loose money on the racing. If they can race a day when they may get increased wagering and decrease their losses, they shouldn't?

I gather your suggestion is they take one for the team, but being their finance guys (casino side) probably had their say in the matter.

For the record, I am less harsh on Mohegan Sun. I believe they want to make harness racing work. Harrah's on the other end will be the first one to cut the cord when the opportunity occurs.