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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Sunshine Split

- The split decision in Florida, with Miami-Dade voters rejecting slots and Broward County voters approving them by a 57-43% margin for Gulfstream, Pompano Park, Dania Jai-Alai, and Hollywood Greyhound will, among other things, deepen the rich-man/poor-man divide between Gulfstream and nearby Calder. Already the former gets all the good dates and big races, and now slots too. Calder president Kenn Dunn:

”We've been here since 1971. There's no reason to think we won't continue, and we'll come back in two years [with another amendment]."
"The people in Dade County made a bad decision," Dunn said. "They hurt the teachers, the schools, and the pari-mutuels. It doesn't give us [Calder] the same kind of tools that other tracks around the country have." [Thoroughbred Times]
Not a great day for Calder’s corporate owner Churchill Downs, who had already incurred an unexpected blow to its financials yesterday.

Amendments to approve slots are permitted to be brought up every two years until the end of time. Opponents are vowing to sponsor a referendum next fall to make this all go away altogether. Governor Bush got a lot of the credit for the anti-slot forces’ half victory, and opponents pointed to the narrower-than-expected margin in Broward as further proof that there is “no great mandate for expanded gambling in South Florida.'' [Bloodhorse] (Hmm, what was the president’s margin of victory again?)

So it’s on to Tallahassee, where the state legislature must now decide on some rather important details like the tax rate, and the number and hours of operation of the machines.
The governor said the Legislature will have a hard time finding the right balance between giving the industry what it wants and imposing a tax rate that is too high and regulations that are too restrictive.

''If [regulation is] onerous, it'll probably be thrown to the courts,'' he said. ``Likewise if it's too liberal and lets the parimutuels have free rein, I won't support it. So we have to find common ground.'' [Miami Herald]
The mayor of Broward County, a slots opponent, pointed out that "Broward County is going to be footing the bill for the rest of the state."
Further, by paving the way for slots in Broward County, voters ensured the state's Indian tribes can now trade their lackluster video slot machines at their six casinos scattered from Miami to Tampa for full-blown Vegas-style slots, legal experts said. [Palm Beach Post]

- Arkansas is now taking up the slots debate, but with a difference.
The bill would not authorize games of pure chance, such as slot machines, said state Racing Commission chairman Cecil Alexander. The electronic games offered would require some analysis and skill, similar to the analysis that goes into placing a bet on a horse race.. [Arkansas News Bureau]
That’s an interesting condition, and one that I’m sure is open to interpretation. Some could probably argue that there’s some skill in mindlessly sitting for hours and accurately aiming those coins for the itty-bitty slits. Endurance certainly. This bill provides for only a 20% tax rate, far below even that of Louisiana, which seems to be the current standard for chintzy payoffs to the state.

- Afleet Alex’s fleet victory, which earned him a 106 Beyer, the highest thus far this year for a 3 yo, apparently took little out of him, as trainer Tim Ritchey declared him “fresh.”
"That's huge off a layoff," said Rick Lee, who works for Beyer Associates and is a 15-year handicapper at Oaklawn. "To be able to produce a 106 at a distance that's not his best distance, and to run a full second faster than such a quality horse as Pro Prado [earlier on the card], puts the race in its proper context.” [Daily Racing Form]