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Friday, May 18, 2007

Racing Makes No Difference to Spitzer

- Busy today at work before leaving for Nashville, but wanted to sneak in a quick post here. The Saratogian has an article containing some reaction to the article about the possible closing of Aqueduct, and splitting up of the franchise.

And the reactions as reported by Paul Post are no surprise. "To me that's a bad idea," said Jack Knowles; and Assembly member Audrey Pheffer, who represents the district where the Big A is, said: "I'm going to fight like hell to keep Aqueduct open." The article also raises issues such as necessary revenue sharing from the downstate VLT's to keep Saratoga's purses competitive, that minor matter regarding the fact that present law prohibits slots at Belmont, and the effect the plan would have on consolidating the OTB's with the new operator(s).

Most alarming to me however, was this quote from Spitzer as relayed by Ms. Pheffer: "What's the difference if there are horses running or not?" That's a question I expect to see raised in the next few years by racino operators around the country once they get sick of subsidizing the racing side that contributes only a minuscule portion of their income but, for now, allows them to be in existence. But to hear it from the Governor of this state, at a time that we thought, in what was likely a flight of naive fancy, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an regulatory environment that could help the sport thrive, is disconcerting, disturbing....down right despicable, actually. I'm just disgusted. Between this, and his prior comments in the Troy Record, it's very clear that racing is very far down on his list of priorities. The reader who recently admonished me for saying that Spitzer was interested in getting something done with the Aqueduct racino was obviously sharper than I.

Also wanted to mention the presentation by Capital Play in Saratoga last night. Not much media coverage that I've seen. There's a brief report from a local TV channel here, and perhaps The Saratogian's report isn't up online yet. But thanks to the readers who reported on the meeting here, where there is already a lively debate on its merits. If you go to Capital Play's website, you can see their video presentation. (which is worthwhile even if only for some cool old news footage).

Their idea to attract young women reminds me of a time a number of years back when I was going into the Meadowlands, and heard a group of guys ask the admission guy, "So, where are the chicks??" Ha! Most tracks, places like Keeneland and Saratoga excluded, are virtual men's clubs. I wanted to tell these guys to check out the paddock before the next filly race. Look, it's a wonderful idea to create a big party atmosphere that new young fans will flock to. But Australia is a different culture, and there's no guarantee that the same strategy (even if they did orchestrate it Down Under as opposed to being a mere bookie as one commenter wrote) would be effective here.

I was in the party tent at Saratoga Harness over the summer, and it was pretty filled with a young crowd digging on the music, food, and company. Getting them out to see the races is another thing. Of course, they don't try at that track, and maybe if an outfit like Capital Play did, we'd see some results. But I seriously wonder if the governor is the least bit interested in giving them, or any of the other bidders, a shot at reviving a sport and industry that he doesn't seem to care about in the least.

Gotta go, speak to you next from Music City.


Anonymous said...

wasn't that Spitzer quote referring to keeping the racino at the big A open while Belmont and Saratoga are running? That would also give franchise holder possible simulcast revenue wouldn't it? Or if I am wrong please explain the "quote". thanks.

Anonymous said...

Alan, Green Mtn Punter checking in again as Anon due to log in problems. Yes, the whole Spitzer attitude toward racing is very discouraging coming as it does on news of declining NY slot revenue and increased nearby slot competition. Again, not enough emphasis has been placed on the total economic impact of racing in NY State, i.e. jobs created, taxes generated, multiplier effect of payrolls, sustaining agriculture and green space, etc. These highly positive impacts are what the industry must keep the pols focused on, not the amount of tax revenue generated from pari-mutuel takeout. At this point, what other cards do we have to play? Having been in business for nearly 35 years, and a NY racing fan for 40+, I must say that the way things seem to be going in '07 have me very worried. I am beginning to think that the economics and politics of thoroughbred racing and VLT's means that racing will be conducted on a much smaller scale, i.e., so-called "boutique" seasonal meets such as Belmont and Saratoga in NY, Del Mar in SoCal, Churchill and Keeneland in KY, Oaklawn in AK, perhaps Lone Star in TX, and winter racing in FL and SoCal. A boutique meet is defined as a meet that draws a high daily average on track attendance and is among the tracks which together offer 95% of Grade I stakes events. I cannot see how racing in MA, NJ, PA, IL, DE, MD, LA, et al can survive, and this whole middle segment of the racing industry seems fated to just disappear over the next 10 years, doesn't it?

Alan Mann said...

Well, that Spitzer quote, for one thing, was really a third party attribution, as the writer was saying what Ms. Pheffer said that Spitzer said. So perhaps I should have let the Governor speak for himself before commenting. However, I think it's in context with the attitude we're seeing from him, so I'd guess it's not far off the mark. But I honestly don't really know if he was specifically referring to the scenario you mention or not; it's not clear.

Anonymous said...

according to the latest from Bill Finley(ny times) you were right on the money with the context of that quote.Not good news.