- David Grening reports in the Form of a meeting between officials from Excelsior Racing and New York horsemen which took place Thursday night (they were scheduled to meet with local horsemen currently stabled in Florida on Friday). Steve Swindal and Richard Fields presented their scenario of an idyllic paradise at Aqueduct and Belmont.
"We're talking about building this unbelievable destination," said Fields, the co-developer of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos located in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla. "We're going to drive people in because we're going to have the best restaurants, the best theaters, the best stores - there's going to be excitement. We're going to drive 30,000 people a day through there - some of them, by the way, are going to go for the slots, and lots of them are not. We're going to be driving people in; they're going to sample the horse product. They're going to come back because the horse product is so exciting."Daily purses of $800,000 to $1 million (!) were discussed, and Swindal promised to utilize his Yankees' YES Network to help promote the sport. There's no question that it all sounds very exciting, and Grening reports that many horsemen were impressed.
However, at least some of the optimism is based on the group's extremely rosy projections of an average daily take of $591 per VLT at the Aqueduct racino for the first year, to rise to $668 by year five (numbers they projected would be reduced to $473 and $572 should VLT's be permitted at Belmont.) The Ad Hoc Committee questioned the figures, and Excelsior responded with a study by Klas Robinson QED, "a professional market research firm specializing in assessment of gaming markets and projections of gaming revenues for start-up gaming ventures." That company's website is here; they list amongst their clients the St Regis Mohawk Tribe, whose proposed casino at Monticello Raceway was signed off on by Governor Spitzer this week. (No word in Excelsior's proposal of what effect that casino would have on the take at Aqueduct.)
Empire projected $414 per machine; NYRA's estimate was $400. Some reported actual net-win figures I've seen range from $370 at Philly Park, to close to $300 at Yonkers, down to $133 at Monticello. So Excelsior is clearly talking about a home run here, and only time will tell if the figures are realistic, and what would happen to the group's lavish promises if the projections prove to be significantly off the mark. I suppose it's things like that which make Spitzer hesitant to award a 20-year franchise with no provision for renegotiations.
The subject of the possible conflict between Swindal's involvement with major league baseball and a casino also was discussed. "I really don't see that scenario coming up....I am committed to making our investment in Excelsior a success and at the same time working my tail off to make the Yankees successful as well." Again, I don't know if Swindal has gotten some indication that Bud Selig will find a way to permit what seems to be an obvious violation of MLB's rules against owning casinos, or if he's living in some kind of fantasyland. He's counting on Carl Pavano to fill one of the Yankees' starting rotation spots, so perhaps it's the latter.
- And please, please, please be sure to check out the comments section of the post Racino Approval Imminent?, where there is some absolutely fascinating discussion and varying opinions of the NYRA land issue by our regular reader/poster Green Mtn Punter and some anonymous posters, all of whom are far better versed in the intricacies of real estate law and the complex and tangled historical relationship between NYRA and the state than your humble proprietor. We can all learn a lot from the discussion going on there.
And that includes the tidbit that Dennis Dammerman, a member of NYRA's board since March of last year, was the chairman of GE Capital for eight years before resigning at the end of 2005. GE Capital is the company which is seeking to loan the association $50 million against the land at Belmont. Seems as if NYRA has some friends in conveniently high places as well.