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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Familiar Names Behind Expanded Gaming Push

- A couple of upstate papers are reporting on a move afoot in Albany to allow electronic versions of table games such as blackjack and roulette. Whatsmore, Republican Senator John Bonacic told the Times Herald-Record that "this is a bill that could come together quickly, maybe in time for [the special session] next week." The pressure to cut spending can work small miracles I suppose, and the governor seems receptive to the idea, telling "We will consider them all if it will help us raise some revenue."

The proposal being discussed would, in addition to expanding the types of games offered, allow the racinos to stay open longer. Larger venues such as Saratoga and Yonkers would be allotted 140 hours a week, which would quite likely mean 24 hour operation on weekend.

The idea should make sense to a lot of people involved, but a passage in the Herald-Record story indicates where the real impetus may be coming from.

Lobbyists and some state lawmakers are pushing hard for the change. They believe that electronic table games could pour between $300 million and $600 million into the state's coffers by luring more customers to racinos like Monticello Gaming & Raceway, which is part of developer Louis Cappelli's billion-dollar redevelopment of the old Concord Hotel.

"We think this legislation would be good for all racinos, including the Concord," said Darren Dopp, spokesman for Patricia Lynch Associates Inc., which lobbies on Cappelli's behalf. "The bottom line is that it brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the state and doesn't cost the state a dime."
Ah yes, Darren Dopp, the erstwhile Spitzer aide whose employment prospects have not been at all dimmed by his involvement in the Troopergate mess. And Patricia Lynch, a familiar name to those of us following recent developments in the New York racino world; and fresh off her win for Delaware North in the Aqueduct sweepstakes. And what do you know - a look at the Project Sunlight website shows that Ms. Lynch has been employed by Concord Associates since at least since last May, collecting a cool $10,000 a month (plus $840 in reimbursable expenses). Ha, and we might have wondered just how Cappelli was able to obtain a 75% retention rate of slots revenue, almost twice as much as some of the other racinos get. Seems as if he's spending that ten grand a month quite well.

- As duly noted, Fair Grounds is open in New Orleans for its 2008-09 racing season, with a sparkling new slots parlor by its side. Purses there had already been helped by a booming business at the state's OTB's which, in Louisiana, actually goes to enhance prizes at the track; and the slots should only help. Purses are expected to average $375,000 per day including stakes, and $300,000 per day in overnight purses alone, up some 20 percent from last season. [DRF]

There's the usual speculation about whether the slots will help business at the track; and the usual answer of probably not. I love this line by trainer Tim Rice, via Angus Lind's blog in the Times Picayune:
"Sure, slots have helped purses but I doubt if a single slotaholic has been turned into a fan of the turf....If you showed porno movies at the New Orleans Public Library, what chance would you give that the film clientele would end up checking out Dickens and Faulkner?"


Anonymous said...

This could work if you are allowed to cash your unemployment check at the racino.

Count me as one who does not see how this works in the current economic environment.

Anonymous said...


I asked you before not to use my name. One last time do not use my name on your blog.

Steve Zorn said...

Do they show porn at the New Orleans Public Library? Nothing about the Big Easy would surprise me.

Seriously, the Fair Grounds is the bright spot in Churchill Downs Inc.'s empire, and with the brand-new agreement permitting export of its signal to ADWs, things should be looking up.

Eventually, of course, every race track in the country will have slots, the temporary boost to operating revenues and purses will flatten out, and we'll have to look for the next savior.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how blackjack and roulette can be configured as a 'lottery' game? If I recall, didn't Neil Murray from O'Connell and Aronowitz argue that the video poker at the racinos isn't really video poker at real casinos but a poor imitation that functionally misleads the public? Perhaps he'll challenge odd proposal before it get started.

Anonymous said...

Agree that's a great line but have disagreed with the premise since day one.

The point of VLT's was NEVER to convert those players to horse players.

The point is/was to subsidize purses, enhance the plant with capex, thereby hopefully increasing the racing customer base, not by converting the slots players, but by providing a better product more likely to bring back the existing casual fans.

Never personally thought it would work, but that was the theory.

Of course, with every track now having VLT's, they are needed now at NYRA just to bring back the claiming horses that have shipped to DEL and PA.

Anonymous said...

Wonder what DelNorth's percentage gets changed to if they pass gaming at Belmont Park? My guess is they knew this would be possible all along, especially with Ms. Lynch and associates on the case.

Anonymous said...

Is there a set percentage dedicated to purses, because Del No certainly has not passed along a fair amount at FL.

Lowest purses of any VLT track in the land.

Still waiting for that turf course and promised backstretch improvements too.