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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Huge Crowds Make For a Depressing Start

Got a press release, from Genting's PR agency and forwarded by NYRA, in my email just after the opening of Resorts World on Friday stating that "tens of thousands of enthusiastic visitors" had descended upon the racino for the 1PM opening. I found that rather hard to believe....and, in fact, laughable, as I noted on my Twitter feed. Subsequent news reports however, indeed depict masses of humanity lined up for a mile just to get in.

The operators said 15,000 were inside by late afternoon and with 5,000 on line outside, they were suggesting that people postpone their first visit to the new Queens hot spot. [NY Daily News]
So, while that initial assertion still seems a gross exaggeration at the time it was made, it's obvious that a lot of people either made it inside at some point during the day and night, or were turned away. Genting officials, supportive (and money-hungry) politicians, and the New York Racing Association will no doubt hail the throngs as a harbinger of great things to come. Indeed, we only have to wait until Jan 1 before the initial benefits to the local sport become apparent, in the form of the 36% purse increase that will no doubt lift the quality of the winter sport far above the pitiful doldrums of recent years. One can only imagine what the purses will be like at Saratoga next summer.

However, right now, I'm finding all this commotion over the slots parlor to be downright depressing. Here, we have this great game of horseracing that can barely attract a few thousand a day amongst the millions in the metropolitan area; but thousands vie for the opportunity to tether themselves to a video bandit and sit for hours amongst the droning cacophony of the machines (the modern day iteration of "Franklin...Franklin"), lost in their own virtual, mindless solitude. I feel as if all the complex challenges and intricate data puzzles that we so love about our game are the very things that work against its public acceptance in the 21st century.

And even more depressing is watching this video report on the site. One woman on line says "When people retire, they need entertainment. And this is it, honey!" Really? This is it? I do try to not be judgmental or condescending (elitist, some might say). But after seeing and hearing from the Resorts World patrons in this video, I have to say one thing: Never again will I feel like a lowlife walking into the racetrack there.

Though, apparently, the condition of the racing side at the Big A will, at least for now, work against our feeling too superior. According to David Grening of the Form:
Racing fans who visit Aqueduct when that meet opens next Friday won’t be so impressed with their side of the building. Aside from opening once-enclosed mutuel bays on the second floor, the building is still very much run-down. [DRF]
Now, I certainly didn't anticipate any major renovations at this time; NYRA had made it clear that it had other priorities, and it wouldn't even be reasonable for us to expect a major overhaul at this early stage. Charlie Hayward told the Form that "in a relatively short period of time – a year or two – the horseplayer will have a much better environment.” They'll be a new simulcast facility, a joint Genting-NYRA project, on the third floor which promises to be really cool.

However, it wouldn't have taken much in the way of money ("tens of thousands," maybe?) or effort to make the kind of minor and merely cosmetic improvements - some new indoor seating, a rug shampoo (or five), a fresh coat or two of paint - to make a huge difference. I mean, they've had six months to apply just a little tender loving care for those of us who support the sport during the bleak winter months. So, if I walk in there next weekend (if I can even get close to the place...will NYRA encourage us to wait a week?) and find that things are exactly as they were, I'm gonna be majorly pissed. And I just might vent about it here!


Figless said...

Off topic;

Interestingly IF the BC had selected Belmont to host this year it would probably be THIS weekend, COLD Friday and rain/snow/slop storm on Saturday. I fear this might influence the committee.

Figless said...

On topic, while I agree with EVERY point you make, by and large the reviews (and plans) make this particular Racino seem far superior to the others I have experienced. In the end it appears they got this right with Genting, who is looking to make a major splash in the US Casino market and using this as their showplace.

For a moment it is worth pondering what this place might look like if the scandalous AEG had been allowed to move forward (1-9 it would still be nowhere near opening and WAAAAAAAAYYYYYY over budget). It certainly would have been nothing more than slots in a box when complete.

And YES, it is a sin that NYRA refuses to put any meaningful money into the racetrack side, instead earmarking those funds for improvements that no one will even notice at Saratoga. Seems they are content to play the part of slumlord while reaping the benefits of the VLT money.

While I understand that there will not be much crossover is it not entirely possible that the reason no one leaves the Racino to play the ponies is simply because the racing sides of these plants have been totally neglected?

Anyone exiting the VLT parlor to check out the track is going to take one look at the dilapidation and never pass through those doors again.

This was a missed opportunity by NYRA. They had six months to at least make the place presentable and instead concentrated on backstretch renovations at the Spa, and installing a new paddock beer stand (not full bar) at Belmont at which I have never seen a line.

Anonymous said...

The Big A racing side is one big piss hole. Its totally disgusting and at least could have did a bit of clean up refresher on the track side. They had plenty of time to do a clean up at minor costs till they refurbished the place in full if that day ever happens.

Go to Parx and see what they did. From a dump as Aqueduct to now a great comfortable CLEAN place to bet horses live and similcast.

Anonymous said...

And my mother called ME a "race track bum."

Figless said...

Unintended consequence is a normally tough traffic situation just got a lot worse for those few folks that actually enjoy attending the races at the Big A.

jk said...

A rug shampoo? I was not aware of any rugs in the Big A. I am glad they will eventually renovate this old war horse. I do have a liking to its current state, it is a time capsule in many respects, it agrees with me for some reason.

Alan, do not get your hopes up for the upcoming meet, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Just remember, help is on the way.

Anonymous said...

NYRA will still lose handle and Charlie has no idea how to stop the decline.

steve in nc said...

"...and Charlie has no idea how to stop the decline."

I don't have any great ideas either that NYRA could implement without national coordination and cooperation from the legislature. If you have some ideas, let's hear 'em.

Figless said...

I dunno Charlie has done a pretty good job keeping things afloat after the NYC OTB demise.

With a little money in the marketing fund we might be in for a surprise or two, just wish they were proactive with the Big A.

Anonymous said...

Hey, if Belmont ever gets the Shinnecocks and full scale gaming, Aqueduct's racing side will be shut down as quickly as possible. All downstate NY racing will occur at Belmont, no different than the Spitzer plan.

Figless said...

Not happening.

To initiate full scall gaming at Belmont they would need to use the stable area, where would the horses come from? That or they could condemn a large chunk of Elmont.

Logistically it can not happen, not to mention constitutionally.