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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Saturday Morning Notes - Dec 10

- NYRA staves off imminent doom, at least through early February. In what amounts to a state bailout, or a partial one anyway, a state authority agreed to pay $5 million for a parcel of land near Aqueduct. But according to the Albany Times-Union’s James Odato, who does an excellent job covering the NYRA situation in the state capital, the deal appears to be a case of a public authority purchasing land the state already owns -- a fiscal gimmick recalling a strategy used by the Cuomo administration.

It also continues to muddle the issue of who owns the racing sites NYRA runs under state franchise. Gov. George Pataki contends the state owns the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks. NYRA, which holds the deeds and pays taxes, says it owns the tracks.
The Port Authority deal calls for NYRA to invest $5 million into track facilities once the VLT proceeds begin rolling in, to enhance the value of the franchise...
- Derby winner Giacomo is preparing for his comeback, working a half in a pokey :52.80. Keep an eye on the progression of his works as his return race approaches; you may recall that a couple of weeks before the Derby, he had a workout so slow that it wasn’t even recorded. He subsequently improved his work times, capped by a sparkling 7 furlongs in 1:23 and change, and then won the Derby. How impressive that win actually was is still a matter of dispute, as is the horse himself. He ran OK in the Preakness, but to me it didn't really affirm his Derby win or show that it was anything but a horse just picking up the pieces of a field that was devastated from an absurd pace. How he does upon his return should be one of the more interesting stories of early 2006, and here's hoping that he runs well, even if I don't bet on him. He's a Derby winner, and one that made a big splash because of the big exotics payoffs he sparked, so he's known to the general public much more than most. He could generate a lot of interest and publicity if he becomes a contender in the handicap division and in the picture for the Classic next fall.

Noble Causeway has also been working towards his return. Another interesting story given his mysterious summer at Saratoga, where he was scratched before one race and then pulled up in another. He worked a half in :49.60 at Palm Meadows.

- Florida legislators constructed the slots bill there in a manner that accommodates an expected move to place a referendum to repeal the law on the November 2006 ballot.
Rather than dedicating revenues from slot machines to a specific program, the bill requires the money to go into a general account that cannot be used for long-term projects -- which would have to be cut back if the repeal effort succeeds. [Miami Herald]
I can’t imagine how they could possibly repeal the law at that point. Indeed, a lobbyist for Hollywood Greyhound already declared, just minutes after the agreement was announced, that construction workers could begin work as soon as Monday to make room for the electronic games. Assuming that the racinos are all up and running by next November and major construction on casinos is either finished or well under way, it would really be something if voters approved pulling the plug on it all.

- One of the more controversial of many such casino-related issues in Pennsylvania is the intention of investor group Chance Enterpirses to build a casino near the site of the historic Gettysburg battlefield. Opponents feel that it’s inappropriate for a casino to be near such an important historical site and that it exploits the soldiers who died there (in addition to the usual ‘social ills’ complaints).

Chance announced on Friday that they have changed the casino’s name from Gettysburg Gaming Resort and Spas to Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa. Nice try, but that’s not going to do much to satisfy the critics.
“That was one of three demands that our group had made,” said Susan Star Paddock, chairperson of No Casino Gettysburg. “that there be no casino in Gettysburg, that there would be no casino in Adams County, and that there would be no casino anywhere that exploited the name Gettysburg.

“So we’re happy that they’ve changed the name,” she said. “Now they just need to change the location.” [Gettysburg Times]