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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday News and Notes

A Daily News headline the other day read: Democrats may say no dice to New York casinos, Sheldon Silver warns. However, I think that's a case of a paper making up news in order to attract some readers/traffic. All the Speaker really said is that he can't guarantee how his conference will vote. The fact is that Silver supports it, as does the Governor and the Senate Majority Leader....and I for one don't sense any real organized opposition to the idea in the legislature. . And Silver acknowledged that the climate is far different from the last time it came up in the late 90's.

Not only is the deficit-plagued state desperately in need of new revenue and job creation, but casinos have sprouted up in surrounding states and even on Indian reservations within New York.

“There may be an attitude of ‘Let’s take some of the revenue and keep it home,’” Silver said.
A familiar argument to be sure. Even Mayor Mike, a one-time gambling opponent, trotted that one out to explain his recent reversal. The mayor may have once opposed expanded gambling on the basis of its being regressive, the inevitable saturation, and the fact that casinos are not the panacea for the surrounding neighborhoods that advocates make them out to be. But not anymore. There's sufficient cover at this point for politicians of most stripes to take this easy way out of having to make difficult fiscal decisions.

What the Speaker may really be getting at is buried in the last sentence of the article.
Silver said it is possible that his members will want the constitutional amendment to be more specifically defined than the one Cuomo has talked about.
Because the big question now regarding casinos is not 'if,' but 'where.' (At least in terms of getting the question posed to the voters in a referendum which could take place in Nov 2013.) So, this could set off a frenzy of activity by the New York Gaming Association (NYGA) representing the nine existing racinos, as well as the tribes and private investors such as Louis Cappelli who are looking for a piece of the pie. (Though their lobbyists would probably be happy to see the matter drag on for a couple of years.)

- With 5,000 machines now on line, the win per machine figure for the week ending 12/24 at Resorts World dropped to a relatively anemic $261. While the weeks leading up to Christmas are generally slow ones for the racinos, that's significantly below the $380 figure NYRA is using for their 2012 budget. Of course, I haven't seen an iota of marketing on the part of Genting to this point, have you?

- The purse increases, said to be in the order of 36%, took effect at the Big A on Wednesday. When Stud Muffin ($15) won the 5th race, owner Bruce Golden Racing collected a winner's share of $35,400 (60% of the $59,000 purse)....more than $10,000 more than his $25,000 optional claiming price. No wonder activity has been brisk at the claim box! When Stud Muffin last ran, in the same state-bred optional claiming level, the purse was $43,000. Seven-year old has now earned $44,000 with a win and a second since being claimed by David Jacobson for $20,000, nice.

In the 7th, Coosada ($7.10) shipped in from Churchill off the claim for trainer John Good. He last ran in a 16K claimer there which carried a purse of $21,000. Here, he dropped to 14K, but competed for a purse of $34,000. Owner Maggi Moss collected a winner's share of $20,400 - nearly as much as the Churchill race offered overall - plus the proceeds from a Linda Rice claim, for a total of $34,400. Not a bad return.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

So They Messed Up

The way I see it, the NYRA takeout fiasco is far more breathtaking in the sheer incompetence and ineptitude on display, by both the association and the bodies that regulate it, than its actual practical effect. "$8.6 million taken out of horseplayers' pockets" may sound draconian. However, over 15 months and thousands of affected wagers, it's really for the most part just relative dribs and drabs withheld from bettors who were probably overjoyed to have won and collected in the first place. Half of them will probably never even realize that anything untoward occurred.

And let's face it. This was not money that was going to go towards stimulating the economy or creating jobs. One could argue that the vast majority would have been churned right back into the pools. So NYRA was probably hurting mostly itself and its horsemen.

I mention this not in an attempt to diminish what happened. It's inexcusable. But with the fight over casinos starting to simmer, and just in the course of everyday politics and business with the rivalries and conflicts that accompany them, we're certain to hear that number used as a cudgel by those to whom NYRA is an obstacle to their business interests, or just the convenient foil they have been for quite some time. So I think it's important to keep things in perspective.

In any event, this whole affair is just so bizarre; there's no rational explanation for what occurred. I wrote in the last post about how the sunset provision was common knowledge when the law was passed, and how everyone seemed to have mysteriously forgotten about it (including myself). But, as it turns out, not everyone had. Pull the Pocket wrote of a poster on the Paceadvantage site who says that he actually contacted the Racing and Wagering Board in January of 2011 about the takeout being too high, and never received a response! How can that be? What were they thinking of?

The immediate reactions of the two main parties involved, NYRA and the Board, also left something to be desired as far as I'm concerned, as they tried to slip it by as if nothing major had happened. This is the audio of the meeting of the NY State Racing and Wagering Board at which the takeout overcharge was discussed and disclosed. The subject is brought up rather casually, second on the agenda after some routine matter involving Capitol OTB, and framed initially in the context of NYRA's request to lower the rate to a point under the maximum allowed. If you go to the 18 minute mark, you'll hear Chairman John Sabini praise his auditors for discovering the discrepancy. That doesn't jibe however with the subsequent reports that the error was found by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. And Tom Precious reported in Bloodhorse that the Board and its Chairman may be on thin ice.

[Franchise Oversigh Board chairman Robert] Megna also said, interestingly, that he would be “remiss” if he did not also express his “deep disappointment in the failure of the racing and wagering board to adequately discharge its regulatory responsibilities” to catch the accounting error by NYRA.

The matter poses problems, state sources said, for NYRA and the racing board’s leadership, which was not appointed by the current Cuomo administration since it took office nearly a year ago. Given Megna’s unusual public rebuke, it remains uncertain whether NYSRWB chairman John Sabini can hold onto his post under the weight of the new NYRA controversy. [Bloodhorse]
As for NYRA, they tried to totally gloss the matter over with a press release entitled NYRA LOWERS TAKEOUT ON EXOTICS. And I think they may come to regret blaming the error on "the complexity of the takeout provisions in the Racing Law." The fact is that the sunset provision stands out in its clarity from the rest of the gobbledygook in the law. Sometimes contrition is the best course. Oops, we messed up, we're sorry. There's a great song on the Lemonheads' first album, the somewhat overlooked punk classic Hate Your Friends. I won't print the profane title here in deference to the blessed holiday that is now upon us. But the lyrics go:
So I f**ked up
I'm only human
So I f**ked up
I did the best I could do
And then I f**ked up
What do you want
I said I was sorry would it help if I said it again, and again, and again, and again?
Well, in this case....probably not. Have a great holiday everyone.

- And for a chill Xmas soundtrack, check out the awesome Christmas Lounge on SOMA FM.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Takeout Decrease is Leftout

§ 32. This act shall take effect immediately; provided that sections two, twenty-two, twenty-three and twenty-four of this act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after it shall have become a law and shall expire and be deemed repealed 2 years after such effective date.
That's the clause in SENATE BILL #S8549 SAME AS ASSEMBLY BILL #A11635, passed on June 17, 2008, that required that the 1% increase in the takeout rate for super exotics at NYRA tracks expire on Sept 15, 2010. NYRA's failure to revert to the lower rate has it in the hot seat again.
NYRA...will be required to pay back bettors about $8.6 million...if it can track them down through racing accounts. It will also have to help clear up IRS issues with those who won exotic bets during the period. Further, NYRA will be required to pay a $50,000 contribution to a racing-related charity. [Albany Times Union]
In a press release, NYRA cited "the complexity of the takeout provisions in the Racing Law" in explaining the oversight. Section 32 above actually isn't all that complex. In fact, it's relatively straightforward. [..deemed repealed 2 years after such effective date]. It's Section 2, which lays out the actual takeout rates, that's complex. I'm not going into it in detail because, to be quite honest, I don't understand at all how it translates into a 1% increase in the takeout rate on superexotics. NYRA did though.

Maybe obscure, though not entirely appropriate, is a better way to describe Section 32 in that the clause is tucked away at the very end of 17 pages that only a sadist would actually read through. Whatever the reason, NYRA was certainly not the only party who missed the boat, as Matt Hegarty reports in the Form.
And not even the racing board was aware of the error, since it signed off on documents throughout the past 15 months that described the superexotic rate at 26 percent. Under New York's laws, the board is required to review and approve NYRA's business plan every year, and the plan that was approved for 2012 listed the superexotic takeout rate at 26 percent rate. The board also approves NYRA's simulcast contracts, which list the takeout rates applied to all wagers. [DRF]
However, it was reported quite definitively at the time the bill was passed that the increase was indeed temporary. Hegarty wrote on June 17, 2008 that the provisions sunset after two years. Here's Paul Post's piece in Thoroughbred Times from June 18, 2008:
Scheduled to last two years, the takeout increase has the negative effect of reducing bettor winnings.

“Increasing the takeout at a time when racing is in distress is not a good idea,” said Bennett Liebman, head of Albany Law School’s Racing and Wagering Law Program. “In New York, no one can ever tell when something is temporary or not.”
That surely turned out to be a prescient comment. (I missed the clause myself, and needed Mr. Liebman to point it out to me.) And, in the same article, Charlie Hayward is quoted as saying (with respect to the state takeover of NYCOTB that the increase was related to): "The short-term pain will result in a much bigger reward, long term.” Don't know if, by 'short-term pain,' he was referring specifically to the increase being temporary and I won't put words in his mouth here. But I think one could fairly surmise that he was.

If he was however, he apparently forgot about it. As did Paul Post. And Matt Hegarty. And Bennett Liebman (who now works on racing and gaming matters for the governor). Those are all really sharp guys! The always takeout-vigilant HANA didn't seem to realize anything was amiss. It all smacks of a mass Vulcan Mind Meld.

Even no less of an authority on both the Pick Six and takeout as Steven Crist, who referred to the sunset provision (if rather skeptically) in his column of June 17, 2008, didn't seem to notice. If he missed it, then I suppose anyone could have. Still, the whole thing is really kinda weird.

[UPDATE: Pull the Pocket posts about one horseplayer who emailed the Racing and Wagering Board about the sunset provision in early 2011, several months after it should have taken effect.]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Help Is On the wAy

Got some information from NYRA in response to my incessant whining about the lack of improvements thus far on the racing side at the Big A....and the good news is that help is on the way. Construction of the new simulcast center, a joint Genting-NYRA project that we've heard mentioned in the past, is slated to begin in late January. "We are aiming to have it open for the Saratoga meet at the latest," Dan Silver, NYRA's Director of Communications and Media Relations, told me. "It is a $5 million project that Genting is helping us fund. It will reside on the 2nd floor, all the way from where the Man O’ War deli and bar currently sits down to the Kelso room, including the area that used to house the Genting employees."

The Kelso room is the one I referred to the other day, wondering why it was still sitting idle, and there you go. That room will be reserved for NYRA Rewards players, divided into "Elite Players" (which I am certainly not, in any sense of the word) and "Regular Players" sections. "What is currently the Man O’ War room will have a brand new sports bar and a large seating area." That section will be open to all, and the total seating capacity will be around 600. Should be really cool.

Silver also told me that Genting has applied for a liquor license for the Manhattan Terrace on the third floor. "We are hoping to have it open in two weeks and will be making general improvements to the area."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nowhere to Go

Given my proximity to the place, I go to Aqueduct almost reflexively on any weekend day on which I have an opportunity to spend at least a couple of hours. But nowadays, I get there, look around at the options, and wonder why I bothered. All of my favorite haunting places from over the years are either gone or negatively altered. The first floor clubhouse is overcrowded and brimming with that old OTB parlor vibe. The room on the second floor in the back off the Man O'War room is now an office for Genting. Seriously, still? What's the deal with that? They can't find any room on their side? Couldn't NYRA extract some improvements in the surrounding areas in exchange? And the Manhattan Terrace on the third floor has been taken over by the dingy and depressing desk cubby things as pictured in this post.

I haven't found a comfortable place to settle, at least without paying $13.99 for a table in the Equestris restaurant, buffet meal included; not a terrible deal I suppose. But best I can find for free thus far is front side of the third floor outside the restaurant. That represents full circle, because it's where we used to hang out in the old days when it was just the third floor clubhouse, before Equestris was built (though with frequent trips to the staircases in the back).

The most frequent question I'm asked on the subject of the Big A these days is why couldn't somebody have done something, even a bare minimum, to try and make the racing side more inviting. And I can't really answer. NYRA has other priorities as we know, and presumably is still waiting for the cash spigot to open (don't know what the timetable of the required payments from slots money is). And Genting? Guess they don't really care despite professing to do so. The only improvements they've contributed thus far on the track side are the ones related to the concession stands that they now run. We're told that they'll be a lavish simulcast facility, but no sign of that yet. Might be better to just play from home until that time.

The second floor of the casino is now open, and there's a passageway open from the track. But you can't actually go in unless you've signed up for some kind of rewards program related to the slots, so not sure why they bothered.....except for the concession stand accessible before you get to the friendly security folks who tell you that you can't come in. It was pretty damn empty up there on the slots floor. So, as I mentioned recently, expect those win per machine numbers to adjust downward rather precipitously.

The local racing sucked again - virtually unplayable - so bet strictly out of town races on Saturday. Two more winners for the Toddster at Gulfstream, giving him four in a row and nine of 18 at the meet going into Sunday (with some solid contenders entered for that day). In the 5th, Unbridled's Ocean ($4) got up with a desperate late rally as Johnny V finally found room after an eventful trip on the inside. Three-year old son of Unbridled's Song is a half to the turf sprint stakes winner West Ocean, and is out of a Belong To Me mare who's a half-sister to Sun King, who's been virtually invisible as a freshman sire this year.

And in the 8th, Pletcher's first-timer Dan and Sheila ($8.40) took money and got the job done for owner Ahmed Zayat after a wide trip. Two-year old is by More Than Ready out of the stakes winning Sheila's Prospect (Not For Love). Thought I was gonna nail a nice exacta with Twin, but he hung after a similarly wide trip, so no luck there. That's the third first-time two-year old winner at the meet for the Toddster, from five starters.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hunch Bets for Thursday, Dec 15

Money In Motion 2nd at Aqueduct
Upandgone 1st at Charles Town
American Excess 5th at Golden Gate
Matter Of Money 5th Laurel
Justleavemealone 1st at Aqueduct
Web Surfer 8th at Penn National
Implosion 3rd at Aqueduct
Tree Hugger 5th at Hawthorne
Best Laid Plans 5th at Golden Gate

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wanna Bet?

Yeah I know, been awhile since the last post. But hey, it's a slow time in the racing calendar. And besides, it's the holidays, and we're all supposed to be depressed, right? I mean, that's what everyone tells me, especially for some reason my yoga instructors. Guess that must be their selling point this time of year. Anyway, guess I'm overdue for a post, so here goes.

The purses go up at the Big A on December 28, when NYRA comes back from its Christmas holiday break that begins after racing concludes this Sunday. Will the purses merely attract more bad horses, as this reader postulated? Or will quantity also mean quality? I spoke to someone with intimate knowledge of the NYRA circuit who said he has absolutely no idea what to expect...and if he doesn't, I don't know that anyone does.

It does seem likely that horsemen are holding back at this point, awaiting the more generous prize money. The racing here usually holds up fairly well in December, but that's surely not the case this year. I was there on Saturday, and the card was just dismal. The Xmas break can't come soon enough, and we can only hope for some light on the other side.

Resorts World of course will not be taking a break; their casino is open every day of the year. It should be quite the holly jolly scene there around 2AM on Christmas morning. In fact, the second and third floors of the casino is slated to open on Friday, adding another 2,514 VLT's to the gambling menu there; as well as two 250-seat restaurants. The third floor is billed as the largest event and catering space in the borough.

The new additions are opening four months ahead of schedule, Resorts World said.

“We have been truly humbled by the response of New Yorkers and tourists alike and we thank them for their ongoing support and patronage,” said Resorts World New York President Michael Speller. “Due to the hard work of our 1,500-person staff, we’re confident that we will be able to continue providing the highest level of service to our customers as we unveil the second stage of our facility.” []
Of course, it's highly unlikely that a doubling of the machines is going to mean a doubling of the patrons. Haven't seen any promotional efforts tied to the expansion...seems almost like a soft opening. And the Special Events tab of the website still reads Visit often for upcoming promotions at Resorts World Casino NYC. In any event, we should start to get an idea of how the win per machine figures are going to compare to NYRA's budgeted figure of $380. Considering that the figure dropped off to $478 for the week ending 12/10, that doesn't seem like such a lock now with all those machines set to come on line. Perhaps some people are discovering that VLT's are simply not all that much fun!

While NYRA may, or may not, be sweating this out, Genting itself has bigger fish to fry at the moment as the battle heats up in Florida over its bid to build a huge full-fledged casino and entertainment/convention center in downtown Miami. The company has hired a former congressman as a lobbyist, and he wrote an opinion piece in the Miami Herald this past weekend. That drew at least one heated response. As you might expect, Genting is using Aqueduct to herald their record of creating local jobs. It's always interesting to read views from afar, and this is what the casino opponent had to say about the 1,500 jobs created here:
Yet Diaz-Balart doesn't explain [that] the Queens racino is located in a depressed neighborhood, miles away from Manhattan, or that Genting agreed to pay the Empire State a $380 million upfront fee and a 66 percent tax rate to build a gambling facility that is significant smaller than the company's proposed Miami resort. [Miami New Times]
Though I find the casino itself to be quite depressing, I would hardly classify the working class neighborhood as 'depressed.' Besides, I don't understand the relevance of that argument anyway with employment scarce just about everywhere. And Queens can seem a lot further away from Manhattan than it really is when you're far away, But hey, that's their fight down there, and we'll just watch and see how it turns out.

- The New York Times continues its campaign against fighting in the National Hockey League with a barrage of articles on head injuries even after the three-part-series on the late Derek Boogard which even prompted the paper of record to break out a separate sports section last Tuesday. Funny how, as with horse racing, the Times is so eager to proselytize about the problems of a sport about which it's provided little positive coverage over the last few years. But just as Joe Drape's articles on illicit medication in racing has contributed to the sport's self-inspection, the Boogard articles are no doubt already having an effect.

It used to be you'd read that a player was out with a concussion, he'd be out for a few games perhaps, and then be back. So it's surely interesting to note the way the injury has become so magnified, not only in terms of the coverage of them but, more curiously, the seriousness, the amount of time missed, and the incidences of recurrence. Is it because players are bigger and stronger and thus more capable of causing profound damage? Or more due to a greater awareness of the issue of head injuries resulting in a far more cautious approach by player and team alike? In horse racing, we often blame an increase in physical problems on a deterioration of the breed. But since we're a superior race, it would surely be simply facetious of me to suggest that the human race is suffering from bad breeding as well, right?

And on that note, we turn, strictly by sheer coincidence of course, to the race for the Republican presidential nomination! Surely you've heard by now of the $10,000 bet proposed by Mitt Romney in last Saturday's debate in reaction to the continuing badgering he's taking, in this case specifically from Rick Perry, over his past support for health insurance mandates in Massachusetts. This was, to me, the most cringeworthy moment of the GOP debate season, and by a large margin, and including Perry's brain freeze over the three departments he wants to eliminate. It was a total breakdown of poise under pressure, borne of sheer frustration in reaction to criticism that he seems to be simply unable to handle, and which will surely become more relentless should he become the nominee. "Oh yeah, you wanna bet?" is the basest of schoolyard argument responses when a kid has run out of credible arguments to make.

To make matters worse for the beleaguered ex-governor, trailing badly in the polls to Newt Gingrich in several crucial early primary states, a series of embarrassing videos have emerged. One shows him badgering John Kerry for five agonizing minutes in 2004 for being a flip-flopper. Jon Huntsman rolled out an ad containing several clips in which he unequivocally expresses his support for mandates, not only for his state, but for the nation. And in another video that has surfaced from 2002, he says "my views are progressive."

I posted on Twitter recently that "$10,000 says that Romney is toast." Someone replied that he'd take me up on that. Unlike Romney, who I'm sure was totally serious, I wasn't. About the bet, anyway.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

No Limit On Hypocrisy

Gaming Agreement: The Leaders expressed support to work with the Governor and request support from their respective majorities to put a constitutional amendment up for a vote.
And so, in a mere paragraph contained within the announcement that the Three Men in a Room had agreed on the change in the tax brackets discussed in the prior post (and explained in more detail here), the road to expanded casino gambling in New York State officially begins. They also agreed on $50 million in grants to businesses affected by the summer flooding; and to provide relief to small companies and independent contractors from the MTA tax.

And the casino thing. Of course, as Tom Precious points out, the statement is light on detail, if not downright trite.
But the agreement is tentative, at best, since no one has yet agreed on where such casinos could operate, how many could open, who would operate them, or how much of their proceeds would go to the state. [Bloodhorse]
The announcement prompted statements from two entities with a direct interest in the development....even though each group also issued similar statements just on Monday, in reaction to Governor Cuomo's weekend comments which portended the agreement. Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter spoke on Monday about the tribe's three existing casinos, which have "created thousands of jobs that have a significant economic multiplier effect.” (Of course, he didn't mention that the tribe has been withholding payments for over a year to protest the racinos in their "exclusivity zone.") He did threaten to protect what he sees as the tribe's rights.
“New Yorkers have every right to discuss expanded gaming outside our exclusivity zone. As a business partner with the state, we disagree over racino in our zone. But the issue of the state breaching Seneca exclusivity will be arbitrated and resolved. [Capitol Confidential]
And we heard from the New York Gaming Association (NYGA), which represents the existing racinos, with similar statements on both days. Got an email in my inbox on Tuesday afternoon from a Christina Levin (presumably no relation to Christine Lavin, who has been active with the Occupy movement), with a statement attributed to NYGA President James D. Featherstonhaugh.
“The New York Gaming Association and its members are pleased that Governor Cuomo and the Legislative leaders have announced an agreement to support enhanced gaming in New York State, which will create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs, generate hundreds of millions in additional state revenues and stimulate massive private economic investment in our state. We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to ensure that legalization of gaming is done in a limited and socially responsible manner.”
Huh, what's that? "...done in a limited and socially responsible manner." Limited? Personally, I don't see much "limited" about expanding nine slots parlors into full-fledged casinos. Perhaps Ms. Not-Christina-Lavin is specifically referring to the notion that NYGA is trying to propagate that a decision to deny them exclusive rights to new casinos would necessarily open the floodgates and "lift all restrictions on casino gaming and allow casinos anywhere in the state," as it was put to the public in their sanctioned push-poll on the topic. In either case, perhaps she'd like to rephrase that.

And please, don't give me this "socially responsible" crap. These guys are already operating substantial gambling halls for no less than 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Don't want to sound like one of those religious nuts, and I don't think one has to be in order to believe that there's no social responsibility, just profitability, involved in opening your doors to slots parlors at 8 AM every day. Y'know, sugar-coated statements like this one just drives me nuts; it's the kind of hypocrisy that can only be generated with the notion that those who will read it are a bunch of fucking idiots. We all know that "enhanced gaming" is a pleasant (and cynical) way of saying "expanded gambling." We're well aware that this is all far less about creating jobs and generating revenues than it is about politicians getting a free pass from making painful budget decisions that could threaten their political careers and all the perks that come with it (both legal and otherwise); and about a handful of corporations and their executives making tons of money. And nobody really seems to ever acknowledge the people of more common means who may get hurt in the process. Sound familiar? Maybe we should get Christina Lavin to perform for Occupy Aqueduct.

- One conservative who was not willing to go along with the governor's plan to make the tax code fairer was Conservative Party chairman Mike Long. He apparently couldn't stomach any increase in the tax rates for the wealthiest taxpayers, even if it's less than the expiring "millionaires" surcharge and accompanied by cuts for incomes up to $300,000. "Dean holds the key," he said of his hopes that the plan would not be adopted, and referring to Senate Majority Leader Skelos. [Capital Confidential]

Of course, "the key" ended up quickly going along with the governor, extracting only an easing in the MTA tax for some in return. Because Dean isn't really that interested in anything but retaining control for his Republican majority next November. He'll do anything for that as we've seen, even if it brings the government to a halt, involves alliances with unsavory characters, or makes him a liar. So, Skelos wouldn't dare cross Cuomo on a priority issue such as this (see same sex marriage), lest this extraordinarily popular Democratic governor pull out all the campaign stops to help oust the Republicans next fall. He could do it in a second, and Skelos knows that surely will should his caucus no longer suit the governor's needs.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Monday Musings

We've been down at my mom's house down in Longboat Key; in Florida, but a long ways from Gulfstream (though not from Tampa Bay Downs, where we haven't been either). Gulfstream is open a month earlier this year. Don't know why exactly, but I don't think it was to get a one month head start on the coming purse increases at the Big A. Just a smattering of NY trainers appearing in the entries for the first two days, and just one jockey (Castellano) that I noticed. (Is Alex Solis considered a NY jockey these days?) The Toddster is there, but not with NY-bssed horses and, besides, he's everywhere. (Had a winner on Saturday with an overbet first-timer; look for that trend to continue, as betting against them eventually proved to be a potentially profitable angle at Saratoga this past summer.) John Kimmel has some horses, but he hasn't one a race in two months so maybe he just wants a change in scenery. McLaughlin nnd Shug had winners on Sunday; Frank Alexander, Mott, and Jimmy Jerkens had horses tool

I imagine we'll see more as the winter moves along, but it sure will be interesting to see to what extent with the bigger prizes that will be offered in Queens; especially with the rank and file horses as opposed to the ones with larger ambitions. Purses these days aren't bad at Gulfstream, which of course has slots - though no backyard, nor none of its former charm (he says without having been there since the destruction of the old building). For example, a maiden special route there on Sunday went for $51,500. One of those at the Big A however will be offering $65,000 come January 1. Happy New Year.

Pletcher's winner on Saturday did so by ten lengths and set a new track record for the 5 1/2 furlong distance. Discreet Dancer (Discreet Cat) is a half-brother to the graded-stakes winner Travelin Man. He earned a Beyer figure of.....100??

- Back to NY and off-topic if you don't mind, talk in Albany of a deal to address the worsening budget deficit by changing the state income tax rates in a way which would raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers. This plan would allow the so-called millionaires surcharge tax to expire at the end of the year, and thus keep the governor's promise to do so. Yet it would raise the basic tax rate on the wealthiest earners, while providing some relief for those at the lower spectrum. Some Republican senators have expressed support for the plan - and, in fact, had previously seemed open to the possibility of extending the surcharge, though specifically on true million-dollar earners (it currently starts at $250,000).

Even in Washington, at least one Republican Senator - albeit the moderate Susan Collins (Maine) - has actually now said she would support higher taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers (she was the lone GOP vote in favor of a Democratic proposal to do so last week). And here's another one reconsidering, saying he senses a "change of mood" in his party.

You might have thought that the Occupy Wall Street movement was unfocused, unable to articulate any specific proposals or agendas beyond its beating drums and vague cries of unfairness. But if you think that it hasn't had a very real and profound effect on the political debate in this country, guess again. The debate has shifted, suddenly and momentously, to the Tea Party's 'too much government' mantra,' to one of 'income inequality.' And tha is, at least in my view, an argument with far more resonance and relevancy, both as to the current economic situation, and to the principles of freedom and fairness on which this country was built.

It has also handed the bumbling national Democratic party, which, despite controlling two-thirds of the federal government, had completely lost control of the debate, the strong upper hand. And it has left the House Republicans who rode to office on the Tea Party coattails, gyrating uncomfortably and rather pathetically to explain why they would now oppose an effective increase in the payroll tax for working Americans and make it seem as if it's not simply to simply oppose the president who they loathe. Of course, whether the Democrats will be able to ride this wave through next year's presidential election remains to be seen.

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Steady Stream

I didn't realize that it was an issue, but the NYS Racing and Wagering Board approved the continuation of online video streaming of thoroughbred and harness races in New York through 2012. Authorization for streaming would have expired on December 22. Of course, it took the closure of NYCOTB to finally bring it about. The law had stated that NYRA could stream only if all the OTB's could as well, and it took a look into the abyss to finally bring it about. Soon afterwards, NYRA obtained agreement with out-of-state tracks to stream their races, and in-state harness tracks followed shortly thereafter.

This story reminds me that the one year anniversary of the closing of NYCOTB passed without much fanfare or notice [updated - actually jumping the gun here, it closed last Dec 8]. I'd guess that streaming has a fair amount to do with how little it seems to be missed; even, as far as NYRA was concerned, before Resorts World opened.

NYRA alone saw a major boost in its account wagering program, known as NYRA Rewards. Its year-to-date figures show that the Internet handle is $79.6 million. That’s up 195% from the $26.9 million that was wagered via the internet during the same period in 2010. The total NYRA Rewards handle — which includes telephone-account wagering and at-track betting via accounts — is $206 million this year, as opposed to the $107 million for the same period last year. [Metropolis]
The purse increases that will result from the slots money will impact racing far beyond New York, as Jennie Rees noted the other day in the Louisville Courier Journal:
Stalls might not be as hard to get next year with no Breeders’ Cup here and a likely stream of horses heading to New York for slots-fattened purses that will dwarf Churchill’s.
..let’s see what purse Aqueduct provides in 2012 for its Remsen and Demoiselle for 2-year-olds; both were $200,000. It’s going to be increasingly tough for Churchill to compete for the best horses.
Interesting dueling op-ed pieces the other day in the Atlanta Journal Constitution for and against horse racing in Georgia. One, titled Horse racing a good bet for Ga., is by State Rep. Harry Geisinger, a Republican who introduced the bill. And he rather oversimplifies things, and twists the facts as well.
Let’s get the “gambling” issue out of the way. This amendment does not allow for casinos, dog racing, slot machines or Elvis wedding chapels. All of that can stay in Vegas. So what makes pari-mutuel wagering different from gambling?

In simple terms, when you gamble, you are betting against the “house,” and the odds are stacked against you. With pari-mutuel, you are betting against the other bettors in each race. If you bet $1 on a horse, the “track” will take 18 cents to operate the track, pay taxes, purses to the horses and other overhead, while you share 82 cents with each of the other bettors.
For one thing, a lot of horseplayers would be happy with an 18% takeout if it applied to all wagers. But, as you may know, the takeout by the casino "house" is actually far lower than those at the tracks.

The opposing opinion piece, Gambling Leads to Dire Results, was authored by the second vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention. So you might guess what's coming next.
Gambling creates a climate with a concept that one can strike it rich based on luck, rather than work and personal responsibility. The providence of God and personal accountability are overlooked with an aggressive campaign to entice people to depend upon luck for their success.
I thought that luckiness was close to Godliness, or something like that? Guess not.