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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reshuffling the Gaming Deck

This month, the Pennsylvania legislature is looking at the possibility of expanding gaming in the Commonwealth.  Because of this, horsemen are getting nervous.

As they should be.   Among the proposals, is a proposal to legalize fantasy sports wagering and online gaming.  There are various suggestions for placing VLTs outside of casinos, from putting slots in airports and off-track wagering locations to putting them in volunteer fire halls, social clubs, and bars.   All proposals will to some extent cannibalize the racetrack casinos.

Horsemen are worried this cannibalization is going to take people out of the racetracks.  Not that horsemen are fearing people will no longer wager on the horses; that ship has already sailed.  They worry about people not gambling at casinos which benefits horsemen purses.  Gambling at your local VFW is not going to contribute to horse racing.

The problem is racing is not the only one dependent on slots to survive in the Keystone State.  Legislators look at gambling as a voluntary tax, one people are all so willing to pay and as such provide a means to fill the state coffers for programs such as education, police/fire, and charity care which  they are unable to fund properly.  What better way to get funds for state programs but off the backs of those waiting for their plane to take off or from a veteran having a few beers with his buddies down at the VFW?  Obviously, legislators are not looking to re-slice the gaming pie, they are looking to grow the pie by making access to gaming much easier.

Whether horsemen are able to defeat the proposals remains to be seen.  Problem is even if successful this time, if the state throws enough darts at the gambling pie, sooner or later something is going to stick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Racing people predictably oppose what might leave them with less money. However, the concept that slot money would improve racing and bring customers back to the tracks in Pennsylvania never proved true.

The harness horsemens groups have more money than they know what to do with because there's no limit to how much the state funnels to purses. Pennsylvania slots deliver a percentage of the revenue without a cap on the amount. That situation allows horsemen to put up prize money for a recently announced drivers competition, various big money stakes and more.

There's no direct benefit to the bettors. Lower takeout, handicapping contests with prize money and other such things would do more to draw customers to racing.