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Thursday, August 16, 2012

So Tell Me Something We Didn't Know

Time for another edition of debunking the theory 'Slots is Making Horse Racing Stronger'.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced the findings of an audit which indicates despite the advent of video lottery terminals, handle and attendance at horse races are not rebounding at racino facilities

Wow, we didn't see that coming did we?

What happened to the argument that greater purses would allow tracks to increase the quality of racing which would increase handle and attendance at race tracks?  It is a great lie told in order to get slots into the racetracks to bulk up the purses and the amount of money horsemen and owners are earning; doing little for breeders, gamblers, and racetracks (other than allowing them to operate slots).  At best, the argument can be made slots gave horse racing a lifeline, keeping it from going out of existence.

Let's compare handle and purses in New York state between the years 2011 and 2006, the year slots started at Yonkers on October 11 and see how well things are doing at the harness racing tracks in the Empire State

                       Handle    Change      Purses    Change              Foals  Change        
2006 $369,723,831 $56,981,956 1070
2011 $251,926,378 $122,461,228 1017
Difference -$117,797,453 -31.86% $65,479,272 114.91% -53 -5.00%

Someone explain to me once more how slots makes for a stronger racing industry?  If you are talking about drivers, trainers, and owners, I guess you can make the argument they as a group are making more money.  For the breeders, it is less clear.  If business was doing so well for the breeders, wouldn't the number of foals born be higher at the end of this period than it was before?  The number of foals born would suggest the breeders are not doing all that well; better than they would be doing if there were no slots, but I dare suspect they are not living the life of luxury.

No matter how you look at it, if you consider the success of a business by increasing demand of your product, it is obvious that slots are not delivering the benefits to harness racing which were foretold.  I doubt the New York Legislature would have passed casino gambling if the idea was to support a product which continues to have a declining share of the gaming market; casino gambling was approved in order to increase revenue derived from the horseplayer, something which has failed..  

Part of the blame falls on the legislature themselves for not demanding certain proceeds to stimulate wagering and attendance or setting up metrics which should have been needed to track to ensure slot revenue was well spent.  Now would be a good time for the industry to go back to the states and demand such changes be made now (with contributions coming from both ends of the business to stimulate racing.  After all, better a little less now than nothing later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pennsylvania requires spending some slot profits for racing promotion and there's even a weekly cable tv show, but neither seems to be creating many new race fans.

If you believe some racing forums, the tracks in PA are dumps and empty. Wrong on both counts. They're beautiful and the seats and track aprons aren't empty (which can't be said for a place such as Monticello). The on track fans just don't compare in numbers to those who play in the casino.

I wish I had a sure-fire solution that would cure all the ills. I don't, and sadly, neither do those running the tracks.