- Magna Entertainment held a conference call to discuss its new debt-reduction plan, and Frank Stronach actually showed up this time! Analysts were rather amazed last time when he dispensed a consultant instead. He told them that he's going to make MEC debt-free, and this time he really means it! In addition to the previously announced sales of Thistledown and Portland Meadows, he's selling off property near Laurel and Gulfstream, and will end horse racing at his racino in Austria.
MEC also intends to explore strategic transactions involving other racing, gaming and technology operations, including: partnerships or joint ventures in respect of the existing gaming facility at Gulfstream Park and potential alternative gaming operations at other MEC racetracks; the possible sale of Remington Park in Oklahoma City; partnerships or joint ventures relating to other racetracks, such as Santa Anita Park; and transactions involving MEC's technology operations, which may include one or more of the assets that comprise MEC's PariMax business. [PR Newswire]In addition, the company will get another $80 million in loans from MI Developments, the Stronach-controlled real estate company which owns a majority of its shares, and $20 million from the man himself, though in the form of a stock purchase from a Stronach estate-planning vehicle.
- Jerry Klein, in his excellent weekly weekend preview at FoxSports.com, quotes one jockey who's happy with the Cushion Track surface at Santa Anita as compared with the Del Mar Polytrack. Aaron Gryder reported, "With the heat we've got today, it had a chance to change and it didn't. It's 15 degrees hotter now than (this morning) and horses are not going into it any deeper." Of course, if you buy into the 'flat track' theory I posted about yesterday, then the comparison may not be that significant. I got a couple of contrasting opinions in the comments section about that. As I said, it's something that makes sense to me from a visual standpoint, because, without knowing anything about any incline or lack of one during the meeting, the horses making an outside move turning for home never looked quite comfortable to me.
- Capital Play and its franchise-bidding partner Mohegan Sun will submit a letter of interest to run the racino at Aqueduct. But this of course does not mean that the Australian firm is giving up on its hopes to run the racing too. The company's NY-based legal counsel Andrew Goodell told the Connecticut news site TheDay.com that having different owners for racing and gaming brings the risk of having facilities that are not comparable in quality.
If Goodell had ever been to tracks like Yonkers, Monticello, or Saratoga Harness, he'd know how ridiculous that assertion is, at least in my opinion. There couldn't possibly be a bigger difference in the quality of the racing and gaming facilities at those tracks. Since the slots are the profit center, all of the renovations have gone to that side of those operations, while the racing facilities are seemingly stuck in a time warp. A company which owned only the racing would have every incentive to make their facility as attractive as possible.
And thanks to the commenters who filled in some blanks from my post on Wednesday's hearings. It's not my purpose, nor do I generally have the time, to re-hash every detail of every story. I try to pick out aspects that I think warrant further comment or explanation, and I link to the stories so that you can read them in their entirety. Nonetheless, I do love to get comments and feedback, and by all means please feel free to highlight anything I skipped that you think is important.
One story that a commenter mentioned that I should too is this one from the Thoroughbred Times regarding the proposed percentage of VLT money for the horsemen. Paul Post writes that the 6.5% proposed is less than the 7.5% in the scuttled MGM deal. In actual dollars, horsemen would get about $22.5 million less under the Spitzer proposal.
Horsemen in Delaware and Pennsylvania get 11.1% and 12% of gaming revenues...Hayward says that the lower percentage still translates into a purse increase of nearly 30%. I haven't heard the horsemen complain.....yet.
NYRA President Charles Hayward said that NYRA also gets a much lower share of VLT revenues under the Spitzer plan. NYRA would receive 7%, but 4% would have to go toward capital improvements, leaving 3% for operations.
“The VLT splits for the horsemen we negotiated as aggressively as we could,” Hayward said. “The government wanted them to be lower; we wanted them to be higher. The horsemen we’ve talked to, although they realize that it’s less, what’s more important is to get this process going and get this thing built, starting to get some money to purses. [Thoroughbred Times]