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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Slots, Hot and Cold

Wagering on slots at the Saratoga harness track is up 2% from last year over the first nine months of the fiscal year beginning last April 1; that according to Paul Post in the Troy Record. And if you think, as I do, that any such increase is astounding given the dismal economy and the prevailing gloom over the near-term outlook, check this out.

Of the state’s eight racinos, seven have posted gains this year, while only Monticello’s numbers have gone down.

Saratoga has the second-highest total income after Yonkers....But Saratoga’s 2 percent gain is the lowest, year to date.

Every other harness track has had double-digit percentage increases and Finger Lakes is up 8 percent.
Overall, the increase is 11.4 percent. Some of that may be attributable to Yonkers benefiting from high gas prices and the staycation effect. But that's history, and besides, any way I look it, it's still unbelievable. What the hell is it about slots that makes it resilient even in this economy? Lottery ticket sales have gone down or remain[ed] flat. And we know about racing handle, in New York and most other states as well.

One thing's for sure though is that people like to gamble. I'm starting to think that maybe track officials really have no excuse when they blame the economy; obviously the appetite is there. It indeed may just be the case that they have no shot against the electronic bandits, a game for our times, no thinking required, soothing sights and sounds, and the chance that any pull of the handle push of the button can be the one to lead to a stimulus package of your own. Too much work to make a score like that at the races, and besides, the slots pay back a much greater percentage of your money anyway.

But on the other hand, there's also gotta be something to said for nice, comfortable new facilities with dining and entertainment. Look around the websites of the state's racinos - Finger Lakes, Vernon Downs, Tioga Downs, the Yonk, Batavia, Buffalo, Saratoga, and they all have something to offer. And while Monticello may be dreary and struggling now, wait until the new track opens at the Concord.

Of course, thoroughbred racing takes place during the afternoon for the most part, so nightclubs are not going to do the job. And we all know that racinos have not done anything to boost the business of the accompanying racing even when it's at night. But they seem to be succeeding in luring customers with attractions and attractive facilities, and that's not part of the deal at tracks, at least at the ones I go to.

- New York's racinos are already built. The matter of constructing flashy new slots parlors in this economy is another matter however. Thus, no surprise that there was tepid interest to build slots parlors in Maryland; just six bidders submitted proposals for the five slots locations, with only one of them, Anne Arundel County, the home of Laurel Park, receiving more than one bid. Penn National proposed to house only 500 machines - out of 2500 allowed - in Cecil. "What we're hoping to do by filing this application is to remain in the process now," a company spokesperson told the Baltimore Sun.
"We would have had more bidders if the economy were better," said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). "Capital is drying up . . . and it's just a tough time." [Washington Post]
- No news of course regarding Aqueduct and Delaware North. "We just can't seem to get to the finish line. I don't know what's holding it up." That quote could certainly be from a NYRA official today, but it's actually former NYRA VP Bill Nader lamenting the delays in July, 2006.


Anonymous said...

Del North up 11% at Finger Lakes yet no purse increases or backstretch improvements. Still waiting.

Anonymous said...

Pick from the list on why no shovels in the ground or "chatter" on the Aqueduct/NYRA/Delnorth VLT parlor:

1) DelNorth doesn't have the $370 million required for the license fee.

2) DelNorth doesn't want to live up to the terms of its bid because the up-front payment due March 31 was not realistic and was just meant to make it the winner.

3) The state doesn't want to sign the Aqueduct MOU until it has established the parameters for the Belmont VLT development and subsequent renegotiations with DelNorth over the splits at Aqueduct. If this is going on, the state is concerned about losing bidders claiming the procurement process was not appropriate, as conditions would have been changed after closing the bids

4) Maybe the New NYRA is having trouble complying with Budget Director Laura Anglin's request for more information on its 2009 budget and this is an impediment to getting the VLT's going as the NYRA has to sign a sub-lease with DelNorth? Recall NYRA CFO Irene Posio's abrupt resignation/termination a couple of weeks ago with no explanation, so something may be problematic at the NYRA's end.

5) The state can't raise the $250 million in bonds to fund the constructon of the facility at Aqueduct.

6) Paterson's Asset Privitization Committee led by his Chief of Staff Charlotte Hitchcock, hasn't decided on what to reccommend in public-private parterships so everything else is held up.

I'm sure the possible answer list is much longer, but the above should stimulate some thoughts.

Alan Mann said...

>>Pick from the list on why no shovels in the ground or "chatter" on the Aqueduct/NYRA/Delnorth VLT parlor.

Great post - I'd guess that there could very well be an element of each and every one of your choices in play.

>>Still waiting.

Remember that they're retaining a higher percentage of revenues now too, though supposedly for marketing.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and all that marketing is going to the VLT's, little to racing. Just check the website.

SaratogaSpa said...

Can't comment on the real reason no shovels in the ground yet, it can be for any # of reasons (see Anon 11:08)-this is New York Political bungling at it's best, but I still hold that a shovel will not hit dirt till at least 2010, more like 2011.

Anonymous said...

Odd. No one has blamed Pataki for the delay.

Could it be he wasn't to blame all those years ago?

Anonymous said...

Pataki to blame, nah, the NYRA was openly corrupt during the former governor's reign. The NYRA was solely at fault for not getting the deal done with MGM at its side.

Anonymous said...

Yonkers is my staycation spot but now that gas is cheap again, its off to Mohegan.

The aging facilities at Belmont and the Big A can not compete with modern amenities available at casinos and racinos.

Anonymous said...

JK is right. Anything done on the "cheap" at Aqueduct or Belmont won't keep people's attention for long. That's what worries me about the Aqueduct development team. How many successful casinos has Delaware North's partners Donahue Peebles and the McKisson Company developed? O.K., now how many casino properties have they developed together? I bet you get the same answer.

Anonymous said...

There is more to a successful casino than the machines, if they keep the dank dark Big A atmosphere and infrastructure it will never succeed.