- Handle at Monticello Raceway is down a whopping 63% from $6.14 million to $2.22 million this year in the wake of the cutoff of out-of-state simulcasting, part of the dispute between the horsemen, who have withdrawn permission for the simulcasts, and management over VLT revenue percentages. With purses cut in half as a result, both sides, which share simulcast revenue 50/50, are getting hammered financially. Negotiations are apparently on hold at this time, and according to the local Times Herald-Record, any further discussion will have to wait until the horsemen's attorney, Joe Faraldo, returns from a three-week leave from work. Or at least that’s management’s take on it. Seems unbelievable that, with the track poised to become an afterthought in simulcast parlors nationwide especially given the fact that half-mile track harness racing is not the most scintillating option for bettors to start with, the talks would be suspended because one guy is on vacation.
In another example of slots not being the 100% guarantee of racetrack bliss that they’re sometimes portrayed to be, the Western Regional OTB Corp in upstate New York is losing money, in large part because the VLT’s at Batavia Downs harness track, which it owns, is bringing in only half of what was projected. Looking at the gambling landscape in the area, it's not hard to figure out why that is.
Western New York is already home to two casinos, with a third on the way. And to the east, Batavia Downs has had to compete with Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in Ontario County and Turning Stone Resort and Casino east of Syracuse. [Rochester Democrat & Gazette, via Albany Law School Racing and Wagering]Perhaps the number crunchers at NYRA should take another look at their projections for the Aqueduct casino in the light of Governor Pataki’s budget proposal, his final one before he leaves office and becomes a fringe player in the 2008 GOP presidential sweepstakes. It includes a proposal for three non-racetrack slots parlors, an idea rejected by the legislature last year when he called for eight of them. While his plan would prohibit a stand-alone VLT parlor within 15 miles of an existing racino, that geographic restriction…..is lifted for New York City, which means the casinos could be placed within 15 miles of both Aqueduct and Yonkers Raceway. [Bloodhorse, and great job by reporter Tom Precious for digging up these details.]
As legalized gambling spreads, the knee-jerk response to the competition is to just roll out more of it, and it’s hard to see where this will all end, except for the fact that it’s not going to be good for our game. The pending arrival of slots in Pennsylvania is causing predictable ripples in neighboring states despite the fact that they're at least a year off.
Delaware's governor has proposed more slot machines and extended hours at that state's racetrack casinos to cope with the competition, but some lawmakers are pressing for casinos in Wilmington and sports betting and table games such as blackjack, poker and craps. West Virginia's racetrack casino operators also are pushing for table games, and that state's legislature is expected to take up the issue this year. [Baltimore Sun]And you have to feel for horsemen in Maryland, devoid of slots right smack in the geographic middle of all of this, hopelessly boxed in like a horse third on the inside at Monticello. Slots legislation is considered unlikely by many this year due to a budget surplus and election-year politics. As Governor Robert Ehrlich told the Baltimore Sun, "Pennsylvania's going to clean our clock."