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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lotteries, Slots, and Language

- Interesting front page article in the Times today regarding the phenomenon we've been seeing of business at certain gambling enterprises remaining resilient, if not downright exuberant, despite rising energy prices and a rough economy for many of us.

John Mikesell, a professor of public finance and policy analysis at Indiana University, published a study in 1994 showing that from 1983 to 1991, lottery sales tended to rise with unemployment rates.

“The findings were that in slump periods, lotteries historically have gotten a little bump upward,” said Professor Mikesell, who has not analyzed recent lottery data. “It’s taking a shot at getting some relief in hard times. It’s usually not a good gamble, but it’s a dollar, and if they happen to accidentally hit it, it may well change their lives.”
We've discussed the idea of the NY and PA racinos benefiting from so-called staycations - the Yonkers racino has continued to do brisk business. Lotteries are the ultimate, as far as staycation gambling goes, only a stroll to the local deli is required. For those of us not in the 'burbs, anyway.

Personally, I find the idea of people turning to lottery games during bad times to be a bit sad, and the "dollar for a dream" type advertising a cruel lure. It's not an approach I'd ever want to see racetracks utilize; nor would it really be appropriate. I haven't heard of any $20 million jackpots in a pick six pool of late. But I do believe that there could be some payoff if racinos really made an effort to encourage crossover. After all, the Times article discusses how some states are trying to lure slots patrons to buy lottery tickets. So perhaps if there were monitors in the slots rooms devoted to the races [egads!] accompanied by a list of various possible exotic combinations and their potential payoffs - just numbers on a screen, no handicapping required - people might be willing to bet and check out some races instead of scratching off a piece of cardboard. Or....maybe not. Just a thought.

I mean, you already have the people out there at the track, so to speak, so why not at least make an effort to interest them? Of course, there's the small matter that the racinos probably make more money from those tethered to their machines like intravenous tubes. Could be something for NYRA to consider though if their partner, whoever it may be, would be willing to work with them in that regard. I'd guess that Capital Play would; at least if they really meant all that stuff about wanting to help grow the sport here.

- A poll in Maryland shows that support for the slots referendum to be decided on Election Day has declined.
Forty-nine percent of registered, likely voters in the latest survey from Gonzales Research and Market Strategies said they are in favor of the proposal to bring 15,000 slot machines to the state....43 percent are against it.
In January, 54 percent were for it and 38 percent were against, with 8 percent undecided in both surveys. []
A partner in the polling firm explains:
"As of right now, my guess is that the absence of any campaigning and grassroots efforts may have contributed the most to the drop in support....For it to be such a high-profile issue, it seems as if there hasn't been any visible activity at all." []
That should certainly change in the next seven weeks. For one thing, a court case is looming regarding how the referendum will read on the ballot; a matter which will continue despite a partial victory by slots opponents behind the challenge this past week. As originally conceived, the referendum said merely that the revenue will go to aid education. Pointing out that only around 50% of slots revenues will actually go to that purpose, the plaintiffs want it specifically spelled out that the rest will go to other matters, such as the gambling companies and subsidies for the racing industry. On Wednesday, a Circuit Court agreed that the wording was misleading, but ruled that just adding the word "primarily" with respect to education funding would be sufficient. The opponents are not satisfied with that result, and will take the matter to the state's highest court.
[Attorney Irwin R.] Kramer had urged the judges to take one of two steps: require the ballot to list all the beneficiaries of slots revenues or list none of them. He said that if the court allows the ballot question to mention only benefits to education -- which is how the General Assembly framed the bill -- that would be tantamount to "granting the legislature a license to deceive." [Baltimore Sun]


Brett said...

I don't think I have ever seen a more confident ride when the margin of victory was only a neck. Wow. Impressive performance. I do not know why Kent D. didn't try to work on Big Brown?

Anonymous said...

They tried the same thing in the Preakness and look what happened.

Anonymous said...

The horse racing channels should be available for FREE! That's a start to attracting new fans!

Anonymous said...

What a great race Big Brown ran! I will always be a Curlin fan but Big Brown ran his best race today and I am now a convert. To do todo. love these horses!

Alan Mann said...

Reasonable point about whether Kent D would have been wiser to push him harder for conditioning purposes. But I don't think you can compare this to the Preakness. That was a relatively slow race two weeks after the Derby. and they had every incentive to try and keep something in reserve against a subpar field. I have no idea how they'll come up with a Beyer for this race since it was the only one on turf; but I'm sure it will be higher than 100. He dug in against some nice horses and I think he got plenty out of it.

Libby, thanks for being a good sport!

El Angelo said...

Alan, I think the problem is exactly what you referenced: the slots are such a money maker for racinos, there's no reason to even bother with trying to get people to learn how to follow racing. Additionally, the median age at places like Empire City has to be 70. That's not who racing needs to attract.

Anonymous said...


Glad to hear that you would be supportive of Cap Play as the VLT operator and marketing aid to the NYRA. Race days in Australia are indeed exciting and the younger demographics are making the difference. I can't help thinking that Cap Play and O'Farrell, in whatever role he is able to play, aren't on the states radar screen as an outfit that can greatly assist in the merger of the NYCOTB with the NYRA.