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Thursday, December 06, 2007

News and Notes - Dec 6

- I found an interesting document while cruising around the message board on the Yahoo Finance page for Magna Entertainment, which hit a new low of $1.12 on Wednesday. This PDF page shows the detailed revenue information for each of Florida's pari-mutuel racino facilities, and at first glance, you may think 'Hey, what a turnaround for Gulfstream!" Indeed, their win per machine per day figure went from $81 in October to $153 in November, to $257 for the first two days of December.

However, a closer look reveals that the track has already put into place its plans to drastically reduce the number of machines, from over 1200 during the summer, to the present total of 516. Add in the fact that Dec 1-2 was a weekend (and a poster on the Yahoo board noted that "they were going to give away Louis Vuitton handbags packed with wagering tickets every 15 minutes one of those days), and that would explain those numbers, which still produced net revenue a third of that of Pompano Park. What seems so perplexing to me is how much better the two other racinos have been doing; especially Pompano, averaging $213 despite having the maximum allowable 1,500 machines. Mardi Gras, the former Hollywood Dog Track, averages $168 per machine, and is just as close to the Hard Rock Cafe as Gulfstream. The differences are striking, and, not having been there, I can't say exactly why. Could the facility at Gulfstream be that much more undesirable than the others? I'd think it's much harder to screw up a slots parlor than Magna successfully did to the racetrack itself!

- Neil Getnick has been subpoenaed to testify before the State Commission of Investigation regarding the no-bid contract it received from NYRA to be its integrity monitor, as well as “other matters related thereto or arising therefrom.” [NY Times]

The commission received an anonymous letter claiming Getnick conspired with Gov. Eliot Spitzer's office to subvert the process for awarding the racing franchise for operations at Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont Park thoroughbred tracks and steer it to NYRA and Excelsior Racing Associates. [Albany Times Union]
Er, gee, can we take a logical guess who Anonymous is? Not surprisingly, the committee consists largely of Republicans appointed by Pataki and Joe Bruno. The state GOP still wields an awful lot of power for a party whose slim two seat margin in the state Senate is their last vestige of power in the state. In September, Empire claimed that the presence of one former Getnick employee on a team of over 30 investigators for Thacher Associates rendered the latter's damning report on Empire's ethics as a of the more absurd accusations to come from that disintegrated and disgraced consortium. (And, by the way, we still have not heard one substantive rebuttal to any of the charges in the Thacher report.) So I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if that alleged conflict is on the committee's agenda.

Bruno has a petition posted on his website which urges the Governor and Sheldon Silver to get serious about negotiating a franchise settlement. "Governor Spitzer chose to ignore previous recommendations, abruptly restarting the selection process and then creating a plan that doesn’t work." I'm wondering which "previous recommendation" Bruno is talking about. The only one I know of was the Ad Hoc Committee's endorsement of Excelsior, and if I recall correctly, the Senator was as cool to that as anyone.

But in fairness, Bruno certainly is not wrong when he criticizes Spitzer and Silver for their inaction. The Governor has never seemed genuinely interested - surprising considering that his 2008 budget includes VLT revenue that he now won't be getting - and Silver hasn't done diddly; in fact, he's said straight up that it's not a top legislative priority. Indeed, it's interesting that Bruno told Newsday the other day: "I believe we can get together with the governor ... in a plan to move forward. The stumbling block seems to be the Assembly." But for Bruno to now say that "there is no issue more important at this time than the awarding of the state's horse racing franchise," a statement that reasonable people could certainly disagree with, is nothing but posturing to his constituency. Bruno is just as responsible for the current gridlock. In fact, it is he who has taken the minority position in an attempt to gain more control over the industry, and it's the Senate's continuing squawking over and investigating the Choppergate affair that is considered to be most responsible for the lack of legislative action over the last few months.


Anonymous said...

Alan, it's just the typical legislative poker game where the players like to find out who has the staying power by bluffing the opponent and then going "all in". I really don't think you can blame Joe Bruno for this- remember, it takes 3 to tango in NY state politics, and Joe Bruno has the most to lose since our beloved Saratoga is in his district. Joe is just setting things up so he can rush in and save the day, like any good politician would do. So, sit back and enjoy the show, things will work out. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

I agree with Green Mtn Punter on this one. All will be o.k Alan. Joe Bruno cares more about the future of NY racing than anyone else in these protracted negotiations, including the NYRA.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Thacher Associates has any connection with the law firm of Simpson & Thacher? I belive that's where where NY thoroughbred breeder and NYRA supporter Barry Ostrager is a litigation attorney.

Anonymous said...

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, where Barry Ostrager is the head of the Litigation Department, is seperate and distinct from Thacher Associates LLC.

Thomas D. Thacher, II of Thacher Associates LLC, apparently the great-grandson of the founder of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, made a career in public service prior to founding his investigative firm.