Perhaps you saw this piece in the Times on Tuesday; a background piece for the Big A racino and the general ills of an industry currently depending on slots for its survival. It's the bleak scenario that we're all familiar with, but it's always sobering to see it in print.
Despite the introduction of slots, the revival of horse racing as a spectator sport has not come. The purses are bigger and the horses are considered better, but the cars in the parking lots at most tracks belong to patrons of the slot parlors. Gamblers wagered $2.2 billion on New York horse races last year, 30 percent less than in 2003, when inflation is taken into account, Mr. Liebman said. The slot machines took in $12 billion.My first reaction to that last quote was: "Bite me, Dick." But then I was thinking....do you think he's right about that? That racing could revive only in the absence of all other gambling; it's that bad? Jeez, you look at those numbers - $2.2 billion vs $12 billion for slots - and consider that slots itself is at the low end of the totem pole as far as casino games go. Vibrant tracks which still draw crowds, like Saratoga, Del Mar, Oaklawn, and Keeneland, always provide hope, but not for the grind of day-to-day racing which the industry as currently structured needs to survive.
“You’re propping up a dying industry,” said Richard McGowan, a Jesuit priest and an economics professor at Boston College who specializes in gambling. “The only thing that will revive horse racing is if you banned all other forms of gambling, and that’s not going to happen.” [NYT]
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is still reviewing Genting's bid to build and operate the Aqueduct racino; both he and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli need to give their final approval. I have it on good authority that Cuomo, the presumptive governor of New York come January, wants absolutely nothing to do with this once he assumes office; so I assume his approval is forthcoming. With the desperate GOP candidate Rick Lazio doing one of the things that Republican politicians do best - fanning the flames of fear and hatred; in this case over the proposed Muslim community center a couple of developed city blocks north of Ground Zero - Cuomo might be taking time to make sure that Genting has no ties to any terror-sympathizing imans (y'know, the kind employed by the State Department) or shareholders of FOX.
Paul Post reported in the Saratogian that DiNapoli's office, which will look into the bidding process and the contract itself, has already "reached out to Lottery with some preliminary concerns." The Comptroller is up for re-election himself, so he'll surely provide at least the appearance of a thorough probe. But surely, the time has finally come. Right?
- As you may know, Governor Paterson is in serious legal jeopardy over his testimony regarding the World Series tickets he obtained last October. I read the report by former Chief Judge Judith Kaye which recommends that Albany DA David Soares consider criminal charges of perjury. Ms. Kaye uses testimony from various parties to make a clear case that the Governor initially had no intention of paying for the two tickets for his son and his son's friend, and then, once he decided to do so, had the check backdated in a clumsy attempt to make it appear that he made out the check hiself and brought it to the game with him.
Problem is that the investigators brought in a handwriting expert who testified that the check was written out by Paterson's aide David Johnson (who brilliantly made it out to his contact at the Yankees rather than to the team.....not very bright lights shining up in the Executive Mansion). Indeed, some people are surprised that Ms. Kaye referred the matter rather than recommending prosecution herself.
I've always defended Paterson and his performance as governor, and pointed out when he was not getting a fair shake, like during the Senate appointment circus, or with the vicious skits on SNL. And I've snickered more than snapped at his occasional misstatements. Even here, c'mon, you'd think that the governor of New York could score a few free tickets for the Yankees in the World Series; I mean, shouldn't that be a fringe benefit of the job? In fact, if the Post's Fred Dicker hadn't deemed it newsworthy, then it quite possibly would have passed without notice. The report states that, at the beginning of last season, Paterson and his party attended the first games at Citifield and the new Stadium, and didn't pay. How come nobody said anything about that?
But the (alleged) lying here is just ridiculous...and so unnecessary. Paterson stepped into this situation just as surely as Roger Clemens did into his. He could have simply said yes, I was wrong, and indeed I've now paid for the tickets, and I think that would have been that, especially given his lame duck status. It's not like he's trying to protect a great legacy and go to Cooperstown or anything.