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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Radio Wars Begin

The New York Gaming Association (NYGA) - you know, the nine New York racino owners who want casino gambling all to themselves - have released their first radio ad. It will be run in the Central, Western and Southern Tier areas of New York State....a not-so-subtle dig at the Senaca Nation, which claims the Western Tier as its exclusive territory. And no doubt in response to the ad campaign planned by the tribe. You can hear the NYGA ad on their home page (though not with whatever version of Firefox I have). This is just the beginning of two years of such ads, both on radio on TV, leading up to a possible referendum in November 2013 to be sure. (And I suppose that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which has already helped to bring the political discourse in this country down to even new lows, allows super PAC advertising on referendums as well.) I got a press release from NYGA with a handy summary of the ad. You can probably guess what's coming.

The spot begins with the sound of a vacuum cleaner. A voiceover immediately follows saying that this is the sound of money and jobs that are being “sucked right out of the state” as New Yorkers travel elsewhere for casino gaming.

Then the sound of the vacuuming ceases. [And cue the cheesy music.] The voiceover attributes this to the efforts of the Governor and the legislative leaders who have expressed their support for legalizing gaming in New York State. The voiceover continues to highlight the keys areas of the New York Gaming Association’s position and approach to legalize gaming here in New York State.
The NYGA and its voiceover will no doubt stick to its central message: that they are the "responsible operators we know and trust." The benevolent, kind patriarchs of benign gambling that responsibly has their facilities open only 20 hours a day. They get another dig in at the Seneca Nation with the assertion that they have "always honored their commitment to New York," no doubt a reference to the fact that the tribe has withheld $350 million in payments in protest of the racinos in their claimed zone.

"We can change this" - there's that vacuum again - "to this" - the sound of k-ching and some people whooping and cheering. From my experience, that must have been recorded at a racetrack. I surely haven't spent that much time in racinos, and I know that people do win there at some point (don't they?) - but I've seriously never ever heard any cheering there, and have never seen anything other than that glassy-eyed, stony slightly-bored trance of an expression on anyone's face.

"Enhanced casino gaming only at racetracks - it's a jackpot for all New Yorkers." Except for those amongst us who are all too susceptible for this kind of mindless gambling.

And except perhaps for the racetracks, opposed to VLT's for which a split for the tracks was written into the law, the industry currently has absolutely no guarantees that it will benefit from expanded gaming. NYGA will tell us that the tracks will profit from increased traffic that the new table games will attract. But they don't quite explain how they would compensate for, say, the virtual roulette games with virtual women with their virtual breasts hanging out that will be replaced by real roulette wheels with real women (who will no doubt be hired partly on the basis of their breast size). Unless the legislature makes it so at some point, the tracks would get no revenue from those; nor from any table games that just happen to usurp space now reserved for slots. The harness horsemen have already started to make that case. As usually seems to be the case, we haven't heard from the thoroughbred guys. They're probably too busy trying to figure out the best way to navigate the new landscape in which they can win $18,000 worth of purse money in a single restricted $10,000 claiming race.

And Genting, the same company that not long ago pledged to be such a good neighbor to its racing friends next door at the Big A, has already floated the idea of shutting it down.
Looking forward, the firm has also pitched to state officials a plan to shut down horse racing at Aqueduct and redevelop the racetrack at Belmont to allow it to be used in the winter, according to people familiar with discussions. In turn, the land at Aqueduct could be freed up, which would likely need to be bid out by the state.

"It makes a lot of sense," Genting's Mr. Goode said. "At this point, it's just conceptual." [Wall St Journal]
Look, Aqueduct is going to close. It might be two years, five years, ten....but it going to happen at some point. It makes too much economic and logistical sense. I've heard top NYRA officials concede so. As I've explained before, I think it would totally suck from a horseplayer's point of view. The difference in the track configuration amongst the three tracks provides much of the juice and angles for handicapping. Year round racing (except for Saratoga) at the massive Belmont track with its one turn distance races would be dreary and monotonous over the course of 10 1/2 months. We've all known all along that, at some point down the road, horse racing would outlive its usefulness for the track/racino owners, going from the reason for their very existence, to a space and money-wasting burden. But surprised to hear Genting come out and actually say it so soon. Or...maybe not so surprised.


Anonymous said...

I didn't see any good news for the Horseplayer or to get more people to bet on the horses.

El Angelo said...

What about the idea that was floated previously of winterizing or polytracking the training track at Belmont and making that the primary racing surface December - April?

Anonymous said...

In mid 2007, Former Guv Spitzer and his economic team were all about developing the Big A property and moving racing to a winterized Belmont. Spitzer had mentioned things like a convention center, housing, mixed use, retail, office, hotels, even a park. So, here we are......

jk said...

This is a big money grab and horse racing does not have any cash to add to the money pot.

The horseman received their windfall in increased purses; has NYRA handle gone up by a corresponding amount?

I wonder what the LI pols who were touting a casino at Belmont will think about the Genting plan.

Dan said...

I saw today from the Daily News today that probably the inner turf course at Belmont would be converted to a winter track & a new turf course would be made on the Belmont infield. Belmont has plenty of land however I wouldn't winterize Belmont. They should winterize the training track & build a small clubhouse area ( 2,000 people max) to bet & watch the winter racing from Dec-March. This would be the best plan & not change the turf courses & major contruction at Belmont. AQU will be done in 5 years & we will probably get Saratoga Racing from July 4th through Labor Day.

Anonymous said...

Spitzer era ESDC chief Patrick Foye effectively stopped the Pataki plans to make Javits a world class convention center as Foye's task force concluded it would cost $5 billon to complete. Aqueduct racetrack was immediately considered a top priority site by Poye and others for the mega-convention center complex. Foye worked breifly for Governor Cuomo as an economic advisor before getting the top job at the Port Authority owners of the neighboring site. See any common thread? This train left the station long ago, so I'm guessing Genting is not starting from scratch.

Anonymous said...

Has the NYRA made a peep since the convention center and no racing at Aqueduct has been in vogue? This afternoon, Megna's calling the NYRA out on improperly permitting credit wagering on it's betting platform. Something's up.

steve in nc said...

Here's a radical (big change) conservative (back to the old days) idea for when AQ closes:

Don't winterize anything at Belmont. Just go back to the way things were before they added the AQ inner and stop winter racing in NYC.

Maybe after 3-4 months without live racing, we'll all appreciate those pitiful 7 horse fields of NY breds.

Wadi Suki is entered again Saturday at AQ. She races just as often as a trotter and on a good day, almost as fast.