- The NTRA and the Breeders Cup are holding a major press event here tomorrow to hype the Breeders Cup Challenge, the 'win and you're in' series which commences a week from Saturday at Saratoga with four races - the Whitney (Classic), Go for Wand (Distaff), Diana (F&M Turf) and Vanderbilt (Sprint). And I'm happy to announce that the NTRA has reached out to the blogosphere and invited yours truly to attend! I'll get to mingle with all those real press types, so I'm a bit nervous. It will take place at the ESPN Zone, with the presentation starting at 1 PM, preceded by lunch at 12:30, and......cocktails? At noon? Hmmm, maybe there's something to this being a real press person after all! I'll of course be posting about the event afterwards...if I remember anything.
The Saratoga races are scheduled to be televised on ABC from 4 to 6 Eastern time, which means I should be able to catch most if not all of them live upon arriving at Del Mar that very afternoon.
- The New York Times has a front page story today on the casinos in the Katrina-ravaged cities of New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi. I found it rather depressing. The casinos there are doing booming business, but for all the wrong reasons.
The casinos in this region are generating more revenue — from significantly fewer players — in large part because of the extra money that many area residents have in their pockets and fewer alternatives on where to spend it, casino executives and others in the region say.Those figures from Biloxi are despite the fact that the number of visitors to the casinos are actually down by 30%. And those who do visit the region are a bit of a captive audience it seems, with only 26 percent of the rooms offered by the city’s non-casino hotels back on the market.
“There’s been this huge infusion of cash into the local economy,” said Bob Mahoney, the co-owner of Mary Mahoney’s Old French House restaurant in Biloxi. “Federal money has poured into the area. Insurance money has poured in. And wages have gone up considerably given the demand for workers.”
“It’s like a barroom,” said Ted Lewis, 48, a case manager at a New Orleans homeless shelter who started coming to Harrah’s only after the casino’s reopening in early 2006. “When times are bad, people come to release stress. They drink, they gamble.”
They do indeed. Boomtown New Orleans, for instance, a casino on the edge of the city that was not flooded, booked $83 million in profit last year, nearly triple its pre-Katrina best. Here in Biloxi, even with two fewer casinos operating through the first half of the year, gamblers lost $428.3 million in the first five months of the year, compared with $418.7 during the same period in 2005. [NY Times]
Gamblers are playing longer, casino executives say, and they are wagering larger sums and spending more time at slot machines and table games. Despite the absence of crowds of tourists, the average visitor is contributing more to the coffers — 38 percent more in the Gulf Coast casinos, according to figures for the first three months of the year.- Casino giant Mohegan Sun has joined Capital Play to be its casino partner in its bid for the New York franchise. Despite the reports that NYRA will retain the racing portion of the franchise, Capital Play's Karl O'Farrell has not given up, and is still touting his plan to revitalize live racing by attracting young women to the track. "I always say, 'If you want to get a second date, don't take a girl to Aqueduct....We want to change that." [NY Post] You mean, that's why women never used to return my calls?!?
“I guess it’s sad,” said Sylvia Lumas, 69, playing at a slot machine at Harrah’s New Orleans. “But it’s entertainment. That’s what we’re looking for here. Everything has been so sad.”
The addition of Mohegan Sun gives Capital Play a strong counterpart to Excelsior's Steve Wynn, whose presence has been perceived as giving Excelsior an edge when it comes to experience running casinos. However, the Albany Times-Union reports that Wynn has yet to submit fingerprints to the state as required for the background checks, according to a state report released this month. Hmmm...
- Southwind Lynx and driver Tim Tetrick, who appeared hopelessly boxed, buried in sixth on the inside around the turn, came up the rail and somehow got through to take Saturday night's Meadowlands Pace in a thrilling finish. You can watch the video here on You Tube.
But the winner hadn't even made it back to the winner's circle before TVG was gone. The network has made a big deal out of the Meadowlands races, even renaming its evening programming 'Drive Time.' But even the Pace, the second biggest race of the meeting behind the Hambletonian, couldn't stop them from immediately switching to Los Alamitos for the beginning of the Pick Four, the betting on which is a source of income for TVG. And that reveals a real conflict of interest inherent in a racing network which is also an ADW. I don't think you can call yourself a racing news network if you switch away from one of the biggest races of the year to cover a race that means absolutely nothing other than potential revenue. Even though they eventually switched back for interviews with the driver and trainer, the pair had both already, in the immediate flush of victory, told the track and simulcast audience (streamed live on the Meadowlands' website), that they thought they were "screwed" on the backstretch. (Funny how they both used the same word.) The subsequent interviews lacked the spontaneity and immediacy that makes it news instead of just an afterthought and an obligation. Bad job there by TVG.