- The upcoming bidding process for the New York racing franchise took on the feel of a Chinese restaurant menu with the disclosure that the Committee on the Future of Racing will seek bids under three hypothetical scenarios – that the racing laws are not changed at all, changed “moderately”, whatever that means, and changed drastically. At the same time, new committee member Gary Pretlow added a solemn note when he opined that "I wouldn't count on any sweeping changes in racing law. That doesn't happen here." [Albany Times-Union]
That’s a pretty fatalistic attitude at a time when the state has a historic opportunity to right all the wrongs that have contributed to the state of the New York Racing Association. Maybe Pretlow forgot that miracles can happen – the legislature and governor delivered an on-time budget last year for the first time in some 20 years. But he indicated that what he’s specifically referring to is the all-important concept of merging the OTB’s with the three tracks.
Pretlow said things such as Internet wagering, along with fan rebate and rewards programs might be adopted this year.Indeed, besides providing a handy patronage outlet for politicians, the local OTB’s provide revenue to their local areas, and the system is too far entrenched to be dismantled without a fight. But Jack Knowles, the only racing voice on the committee, hammered home to his fellow committee members the importance of doing just that.
'That's not major,' he said.
Pretlow said he believes running the tracks and OTB together is the one thing that can make racing profitable. Some OTBs could agree to the plan voluntarily, but Pretlow said it won't happen legislatively.
'I don't see very many communities giving it up,' he said. [Saratogian]
In response to comments by member Bernadette Castro to the effect that she recalled that testimony suggested that OTB mergers would be voluntary, member Jack Knowlton said, "I think we heard from a lot of people testifying that there should be a merger of the OTB and the franchise-holder."Go Jack go! One would like to think that the scenario of no changes in racing law would draw no bids at all, thus sending a clear message to the legislature that major changes are needed. However, it could still very well draw bids from casino and gaming companies who don’t give a rat’s ass about racing anyway. To them, racing would be just another cost of doing business as they eye the riches of slot machines in and around New York City.
"It was pointed out that nobody anywhere else in the country does it the way we do it here," said Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable. "Clearly the OTBs who testified are not of that opinion, but I think there were more people who said this is something that should be done." [Thoroughbred Times]