RSS Feed for this Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Out of Luck

***SPOILER ALERT**** As jk mentioned, commenting in the last post, I had some things to say about Luck on Twitter, and they weren't too complimentary. And that was just in 140 characters, enough merely to convey my opinion that its heavy-handedness and total lack of humor made it a laborious chore to get through. It was a completely grim and unforgiving portrayal of the game that we all least throughout this pilot episode. Even when the four degenerate gamblers score a huge Pick Six jackpot, there was little apparent joy. One of them did do a little jig against the backdrop of sullen horseplayers, and that might very well have been the best scene in the show. I know there are some people who feel as if casual and prospective players will become intrigued about the game from watching this series. But there was absolutely nothing I saw in this pilot episode that screamed out "FUN!" Or even, "fun."

And, even if you are correct in thinking that I myself am being too heavy-handed in the above assessment....there's this: The script ranged from adequate to embarrassing, the characters were unrealistic caricatures, each more eminently uninteresting and unlikable (with the exception of Chantal Sutherland and Gary Stevens, the two actual jockeys who appeared) than the next, the dialogue was largely mumbled, Dustin Hoffman seemed uncomfortable at best - and who can blame him considering the cringeworthy scene in which he rips open his shirt in a rage ("Oh, I broke my buttons.") - and the profanity and the violently graphic portrayal of a horse breaking down were merely gratuitous. So, even if there was a little comic relief, as is the case with most excellent dramas (such as in The Good Wife, which I made the mistake of watching immediately beforehand), and which would have been singularly natural and appropriate in a show about the racetrack, it still would have sucked. In my opinion of course. I saw the first episode thanks to a free preview weekend for HBO, so please let me know if it gets better so I can eventually rent the DVD. I won't be signing up for HBO to watch this.

- Mucho Macho Man won the Sunshine Millions Classic on Saturday, making him two-for-two since being given some time off after he was inappropriately entered in the Belmont. I'm not a big fan. Nice horse, but was a cut below the top three-year olds last year (not saying much), and I didn't understand why he got so much love in last year's classics. A horse skeptic can usually find a way to diminish a win, so here goes - coming off an allowance win against a modest field from which no other horse has come particularly close to winning, Mucho Macho Man sat an easy stalking trip behind a slow early pace, picked it up to put the decently-talented Turbo Comprressor away, and then was all out to hold off the improved, but still not that fast, Ron the Greek to win this stakes restricted to Florida-breds. He earned a career high Beyer of 100. Not bad, but not enough to dissuade me to stand against once he steps up to top graded stakes company. If there is such a thing as top graded stakes company in the handicap division this year.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hat Trick for Toddster

Three winners for Pletcher on Sunday at Gulfstream, giving him a ridiculous total of 30 on the meeting, from 84 starters (36%). We've seen the Toddster overwhelm his rivals on sheer volume at Saratoga; and though he does lead this meet in starters, it's not by itself nearly as much to explain his 17 win edge over runner up Chad Brown (55 starters). The only guy that tops his win percentage is Peter Walder, batting an impressive .400 with eight winners from just 20 starters.

Not like anyone is necessarily getting rich by following him though, other than his owners of course. His ROI on a $2 bet is $2.29; only three of his winners have paid out more than 4-1, and 12 have gone off at even money or less.

Each of Pletcher's three winners on Sunday may have benefited from track conditions; each one having stellar Tomlinson numbers of 410 or higher for mud. Holy Bull winner Algorithms ($7) also no doubt benefited from an ideal trip. Juvenile winner Hansen stumbled badly at the start before rushing up to the lead; and after getting to the first quarter in a modest 23.64, he and Ramon Dominguez blazed the second one in 22.03. I know the internal fraction at Gulfstream can be screwy (check out the first race at the distance that day); but very few horses are going to successfully stretch out off fractions like that, no matter where they are. Not Hansen on this day to be sure; though all in all, not a bad effort in his first start since the BC. For Algorithms, a typical early-season effort by a three-year old which says absolutely nothing about his distance prospects down the road, in a race that went the first half mile in 45.67, and the second one in 50.50. He seems just as likely to emulate his half-brother Keyed Entry as anyone else. Algorithms earned a Beyer of 98, for whatever that's worth.

Broadway's Alibi ($4.40) bottomed out the Forward Gal field with a blazing first half of 44.94, and drew away like Mitt Romney down there in Florida to win by nearly 17. Unlike the Mittster though, this daughter of Vindication was facing some worthy-looking competition, including three stakes winners, in her first stakes try. She's out of Broadway Gold, a stakes winning Seeking the Gold mare who's a half-sister to the Holy Bull/Florida Derby winner Dialed In. Broadway's Alibi earned a Beyer of 100.

Allowance winner El Padrino ($7.20) may have done the most to indicate that he's eligible to improve as the distances increase, overcoming a tight spot to win around two turns in his first start since his third in the Remsen last fall. This son of Pulpit, with inbreeding to Mr. Prospector and Secretariat (and his dam is inbred to Blushing Groom), is out of a Giant's Causeway mare. His second dam is the Ashland winner Chic Shirine, and his third dam is Too Chic, the dam of G1 winner Queena (the dam of G1 winner Brahms). El Padrino also earned a Beyer of 100.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NYRA Beats Back Latest Attack

- NYRA quickly reacted to flick away the latest broadside from a state government official; this time, and once again, the Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who issued a report, in the form of a letter to Charles Hayward, on the probe he promised over the summer, a followup to his critical audit report of June, 2010. At this point, NYRA's Director of Communications and Media Relations Dan Silver may very well have a response file ready to fend off the expected attacks. The file for DiNapoli Disses would be located somewhere amongst and between the ones marked for the occasions of Franchise Oversight Fantasies, Ignorant Newspaper Editorials, and Dumbass Politicians.

NYRA's response was curt and firm, in particular when pointing out that the Comptroller's summary statement issued to the press took a far dimmer view than what was actually expressed in the report. While DiNapoli, in his press release, would concede only that NYRA "has launched some cost containment initiatives," NYRA pointed out that the report (in PDF format here) was actually far more explicit in detailing what it has done to comply with his audit's recommendations.

However, as the actual audit report notes , NYRA has made strides in implementing the 2010 recommendations, including plans to enhance revenues, staffing analysis and cuts in overall staffing, the termination of our former integrity counsel and the awarding of a more cost-effective integrity counsel, cost savings on the transportation of horses between NYRA tracks, and several other cost-cutting initiatives.
In fact, the recommendations in the report that are marked 'Partially Implemented' seem instead to actually be rather substantively implemented. And the ones marked 'Not Implemented' hardly seem that significant or material at all in the larger scheme of things. For example, there's this one:
Recommendation 5

Identify the extent to which other NYRA operations and services deviate from standard industry practices and evaluate whether such departures are necessary and cost-effective.

Status - Not Implemented

Agency Action - NYRA officials asserted that they do not pay for any practices that deviate from industry practice. However, they have not supported their assertion with any documented analysis.
Another is regarding surprise mutuel clerk cash counts not being a surprise; and the other two concern concessions, which is now out of NYRA's hands for half of the year, as Genting has taken over at the Big A.

Not only did the Comptroller paint a dark picture in his press release, he stated, in a fit of mere speculation, that “NYRA stands to squander significant revenue from the recently opened VLT franchise at Aqueduct." NYRA responded, helpfully: "As a reminder, the use of VLT proceeds is regulated by statute and primarily allocated to purse money and capital expenditures."

And in the most bizarre aspect of the exchange, the Comptroller contended that NYRA "expects a $19.7 million loss from racing operations in 2012." This assertion was mentioned only in the press release; it was not part of DiNapoli's report at all. When asked where DiNapoli got that number, a spokesperson for the Comptroller told Matt Hegarty that it was "provided by NYRA during a closing conference." [DRF] But that notion is flatly disputed by NYRA, which stands by its expectation to turn a slight profit, $1.4 million, from racing operations this year. I have no reason to doubt that; it jibes with financial projections I've been shown in the past.

So, where did DiNapoli really get that number? Perhaps, as Hegarty wrote, it "may reflect a difference of opinion on what costs should be included in the association's racing operations." Given his consistent record of exaggerated and/or misleadingly negative criticisms of NYRA, it's certainly fair to speculate that the Comptroller went out of his way to portray NYRA's outlook in the least favorable light possible.

And the release around the same time of the lobbying expenses and campaign contributions of other industry players (with, not surprisingly, the seemingly unlimited cash-resourced Genting leading the pack) raises another question: Is the continued hostility towards the association a result of the fact that NYRA seems to stand alone amongst those who do not "pay to play?" After all, if NYRA's name came up on the list of those who have generously contributed to politicians throughout the system, they'd certainly be hearing from DiNapoli or Robert Megna. And then Dan Silver would have to go back to his response file.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bye Bye ESPN, Hello NBC

- ESPN's contract to televise the Breeders' Cup runs through 2013. But, given the opportunity to escape, they were outta there faster than Mitt Romney bolted from South Carolina. (Based on early polls, the Mittster may match that speed figure getting out of Florida too.)

“In the last few years, ESPN has reduced its coverage of horse racing and this event no longer fits with our overall content strategy,” an ESPN statement said. [Courier-Journal]
The "event" hasn't fit into their overall content strategy for some time now; almost from the start in fact. The sigh of relief you hear is the sound of ESPN execs who no longer have to pretend to care about it.

Well, I was kinda kidding when I first suggested a number of years ago that the Breeders' Cup be on Versus. Then, when the network picked up the Saratoga Saturdays and some other races, it seemed possible at some point, though not until the contract expired next year. As it turned out, that was nothing two parties couldn't work out if one was desperate enough. And now, Versus is the NBC Sports Network. It and its parent network is the home of the NHL, and now the home of the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup, and coverage from two of the premier race meetings, Saratoga and Keeneland. Not a bad place to be in my view. As opposed to being an afterthought if not a nuisance at ESPN, it's now a network priority that you'll see it proudly display, as it always did before the change. I think that should mean a lot to the sport, even if it costs it some households, assuming ESPN reaches more than NBCSN at this point.

The move does mean less broadcast network time for the Breeders' Cup, with only the Classic making it to parent NBC; that opposed to the early races which were shown on ABC the last couple of years. I think that's actually perfect; it's totally appropriate for the big race to get the showcase time to itself. It's always been the case - even before the Breeders' Cup diluted their own "World Championship" event with a plethora of non-World Championship-worthy races - that the event is far too much in one day for mainstream media and casual and/or prospective fans to digest. It's an industry affair. Those of us who are interested will find the races on NBCSN....or at a simulcast facility or ADW if need be. The Classic will be showcased on national TV. Perfect.

Well, almost perfect. I'm not so sold on 8 to 9PM Eastern time on a Saturday night being the ideal time. If we concede that the rest of the races are more suited for insiders, the Classic can still take its place with the Triple Crown races as one to be marketed to the masses. But there's a big difference between 4:30 until 6PM on a Saturday evening, when said masses may very well have nothing better to do, and two hours later, when they're priming and primping themselves for a night on the town. The West Coast venue makes the late start a natural in this particular year, and 'prime time' sounds nice. But I think Saturday night is less prime than other nights. Sunday late afternoon/evening would be perfect at other times of the year, but unfortunately, the network is kinda boxed in by football that time of the year. football season.

And this year, as is the case every four years, the event takes place in the shadow of a horse race of another kind, to be conducted the Tuesday immediately following. Though, based on the steadily deteriorating discourse that we've been seeing in the GOP debates and TV ads, that race may (hopefully) be decided by the quarter pole. It's pretty sad in my view when the "biggest question," as posed by the NY Times yesterday, is:
..whether Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who bankrolled the “super PAC” Winning Our Future that ran negative ads against Mr. Romney in South Carolina, will write another multimillion-dollar check to finance similar attacks in Florida, where airtime is expensive.
(He is.) That's what politics comes down to in this country these days folks: money, and which side can best utilize it to attack the other side. And that goes for both sides of the political spectrum. Sad.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Republcans Are Casinos' Biggest Supporters

The latest Siena College poll - released a few days ago as I continue to lag unacceptably behind in posting - shows that New Yorkers still support expanded casino gaming, though not by all that much, especially compared to support for other of Governor Cuomo's initiatives.

The poll found that the governor’s plans to create a commission for teacher evaluation and improvement holds the broadest support – about 82 percentage points.

Similarly, Cuomo’s call for an overhaul of campaign-finance laws is favored by a margin of 74 percent to 20 percent.

Private investment in return for the rebuilding of infrastructure also polls well, with 73 percent support the notion.

Expanding casino gambling in New York is more lukewarm, but still has a majority of support, by with 53 percent to 42 percent backing a constitutional amendment. [Capital Tonight]
Not overwhelming, but at least it fared better than the ridiculous convention center at Aqueduct, which the poll respondents correctly read through. (Or did they? The governor is probably correct in his contention that respondents presumed that the government was going to pay for it.)

The New York Gaming Association responded with a statement reaffirming that "once again that a majority of New Yorkers support of enhanced casino gaming."
The New York Gaming Association continues to advocate on behalf of the state’s nine racetrack casinos for enhanced gaming in a socially responsible and economically sensible manner.
And there's that now familiar "socially responsible" theme that we'll be hearing ad nauseum from this group. And everytime I hear it, I'll call it out for the BS that it is. If slots offered from 8AM until 4AM seven days a week is somehow 'socially responsible,' that what exactly constitutes irresponsibility? Casino games offered online? Well, that's another matter for another time.

What I found really surprising about the poll results, at least initially, was the breakdown by political party affiliation. Democrats narrowly favored expanded gaming by 49% to 46%. However, Republicans support the idea by a margin of 58-36! Huh? How can that be? The party of family values, marriage between a man and a woman (or women?), and in general imposing their ideas of morality upon all of us, in favor of casino gambling, and overwhelmingly?

However, after thinking about it a bit more, it all makes perfect sense. For one thing, it's an easy answer for a party that looks to cut budget deficits while slashing taxes for high income earners. Whatsmore, the notion of big corporations enriching their wealthy owners and shareholders via an activity as similar to a highly regressive tax as unfettered gambling is surely quite appealing to the GOP. Y'know, we see those scenes in casino ads of affluent-looking types whooping it up all the time, but the reality that I've seen in my limited time spent walking through them (on the way to gamble at the track) is quite different. Sure looks like strictly a working class activity to me. I dunno, maybe the rich folks come out on Saturday nights.

Speaking of rich folks, boy, was I wrong a few weeks ago when I virtually counted Mitt Romney out. Sure, he's in trouble in South Carolina, badgered by negative ads and by the fallout of his own unwise words and actions (or inaction, as in the refusal to release his taxes. Man, I can't wait to see what's in there if he ever gets around to it). But the lunatic fringe vote is split between Newt and Rick Santorum, and his organization and money bodes extremely well for primaries and caucuses ahead. In any case, we'll sure be seeing a lot of this clip in which he casually dismisses with a laugh his income from speaking engagements - said to be some $374,327.62 - as "not very much." Watch:

As I've said before, the Occupy movements have brought the issue of income inequality squarely into the forefront, and this guy, with his millions and his 15% tax rate and his "you wanna bet $10,000" and his dismissive attitude towards a sum of money that would make most all of us extremely happy, is just out of step. What's more, he's shown on more than one occasion that he can't take the heat. The other GOP candidates may be nuts, but this guy is a clown who is sure to make big mistakes once he gets on the big stage with an incumbent who may have a flawed record, but who is unlikely to beat himself.

Yeah yeah, I'll write about some horse racing soon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NYRA Responds

I'm going to post NYRA's response to Robert Megna's letter discussed in the last post in its entirety. That's a post I'd like to have back. It's based on a story that is basically completely bogus, written by a reporter who has shown an eagerness to bash NYRA in the past. The issue was not at all, as James Odato wrote, whether NYRA "has been improperly letting people bet on credit." In fact, there is no issue, as NYRA's procedures regarding express funding of its ADW accounts are completely within the law...a point which some readers were able to ascertain before I did. So I apologize to NYRA and to you readers for jumping the gun without performing due diligence. Though my point that NYRA needs to be extremely careful remains.....and this little imbroglio shows exactly why. NYRA's statement follow. I'm sure you'll soon be seeing it on Capitol Confidential as well.

The following is a response to the letter sent by Robert L. Megna, Chairman of the New York State Franchise Oversight Board, to New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB) Chairman John Sabini, dated January 11, 2012, in regards to The New York Racing Association, Inc’s (NYRA) policies on its advanced deposit wagering account funding practices:

The funding policies for NYRA’s advanced deposit wagering program (NYRA Rewards) are in compliance with the law and pursuant to the procedures approved by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. We refute any allegations that suggest otherwise, and stand by our advanced deposit wagering account funding practices. NYRA welcomes a review of our advanced deposit wagering account funding practices by the NYSRWB.

NYRA Rewards allows customers to make immediate deposits into their accounts of up to $1,000 per week via an electronic funds transfer, referred to as Express Funding. In order to be eligible for Express Funding, a customer must pass a negative check screening process conducted in accordance with financial industry standards using the latest technology available in the marketplace. NYRA screens all of its existing customers and all new customers for eligibility on each request transaction. This process was approved by the NYSRWB on February 26, 2008, and has been in place and followed by NYRA since.

Mr. Megna’s letter asks the NYSRWB to determine whether NYRA has extended credit for any wagering by customers in violation of the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering, and Breeding law. If a customer makes an Express Funding deposit to NYRA with insufficient funds to cover the deposit, NYRA has not extended credit. Rather, the person making the deposit has committed a crime and NYRA has been the victim of fraud. If this occurs, NYRA rigorously pursues recompense from the customer and bank.

Furthermore, NYRA Rewards Express Funding is consistent with industry practices for advanced deposit wagering funding policies. Virtually all industry advanced deposit wagering programs, both within the State of New York , and outside of the State, allow customers to make immediate deposits with similar policies in place to those of NYRA. Some, like Catskill OTB and Nassau OTB, allow customers to make immediate deposits up to $10,000. NYRA Rewards Express Funding is limited to $1,000 per week.

Third Time Would Not Be the Charm for NYRA (Updated)

James Odato reports on the Times Union's Capitol Confidential site that the State Racing and Wagering Board is investigating whether NYRA has been improperly letting people bet on credit.

The examination was triggered by a Times Union inquiry to the Racing and Wagering board last month that [Franchise Oversight Chairman Robert] Megna found out about, according to Lee Park, a spokesman for the racing board.

NYRA spokesman Dan Silver and President Charles Hayward have declined to take calls from the Times Union during the past month. After a reporter forwarded Megna’s letter to him, Silver wrote in an e-mail on Thursday that NYRA’s account wagering operation complies with the law and follows procedures approved by the racing board. [Capitol Confidential]
Oh man. This probe comes of course on the heels of the takeout overcharge and the accidental Lasix shot(s).
If NYRA is essentially letting betters wager on credit by accepting bets against underfunded accounts, Megna said, “this would represent significant mismanagement.”
That's pretty strong language coming from Cuomo's budget director, and the chairman of an oversight board that has the power to recommend to the Racing and Wagering Board that NYRA's franchise be revoked. Here's the language from that particular clause from the franchise agreement:
The franchise oversight board shall notify the franchised corporation authorized by this chapter in writing of any material breach of the performance standards or repeated non-material breaches which the franchise oversight board may determine collectively constitute a
material breach of the performance standards.
Now it goes on to say that NYRA has "reasonable opportunity to cure" any such breaches and there would then be a hearing by the Board and besides, we don't want to jump to any conclusions about what NYRA has or has not done here, which is not really clear from Odato's post. But it's surely interesting to note that materiality is not even a threshold that has to be met if indiscretions and errors are "repeated," and this (if proven to be so) would be the third one to be exposed in a short period of time.

As I've made clear here in the past, I'm not objective when it comes to NYRA - that's borne out of 40 well-satisfied years of going to their tracks (my constant complaining about the condition of Aqueduct notwithstanding). I like the people there; think that they are nice, smart, and truly passionate about the sport. I don't see any good whatsoever that would come out of some other entity - God knows who it would be - taking over the franchise here. But while it's surely true that people and companies make mistakes all the time, these guys are really under the microscope. NYRA apparently has no friends in Albany, least of all it would seem the powerful and sometimes cranky governor, whose very infrequent references to the association have been aloof, at best, with a not-so-vague tinge of hostility. So I think they better stop fucking up.

[UPDATE: NYRA responds....forcefully.]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Radio Wars Begin

The New York Gaming Association (NYGA) - you know, the nine New York racino owners who want casino gambling all to themselves - have released their first radio ad. It will be run in the Central, Western and Southern Tier areas of New York State....a not-so-subtle dig at the Senaca Nation, which claims the Western Tier as its exclusive territory. And no doubt in response to the ad campaign planned by the tribe. You can hear the NYGA ad on their home page (though not with whatever version of Firefox I have). This is just the beginning of two years of such ads, both on radio on TV, leading up to a possible referendum in November 2013 to be sure. (And I suppose that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which has already helped to bring the political discourse in this country down to even new lows, allows super PAC advertising on referendums as well.) I got a press release from NYGA with a handy summary of the ad. You can probably guess what's coming.

The spot begins with the sound of a vacuum cleaner. A voiceover immediately follows saying that this is the sound of money and jobs that are being “sucked right out of the state” as New Yorkers travel elsewhere for casino gaming.

Then the sound of the vacuuming ceases. [And cue the cheesy music.] The voiceover attributes this to the efforts of the Governor and the legislative leaders who have expressed their support for legalizing gaming in New York State. The voiceover continues to highlight the keys areas of the New York Gaming Association’s position and approach to legalize gaming here in New York State.
The NYGA and its voiceover will no doubt stick to its central message: that they are the "responsible operators we know and trust." The benevolent, kind patriarchs of benign gambling that responsibly has their facilities open only 20 hours a day. They get another dig in at the Seneca Nation with the assertion that they have "always honored their commitment to New York," no doubt a reference to the fact that the tribe has withheld $350 million in payments in protest of the racinos in their claimed zone.

"We can change this" - there's that vacuum again - "to this" - the sound of k-ching and some people whooping and cheering. From my experience, that must have been recorded at a racetrack. I surely haven't spent that much time in racinos, and I know that people do win there at some point (don't they?) - but I've seriously never ever heard any cheering there, and have never seen anything other than that glassy-eyed, stony slightly-bored trance of an expression on anyone's face.

"Enhanced casino gaming only at racetracks - it's a jackpot for all New Yorkers." Except for those amongst us who are all too susceptible for this kind of mindless gambling.

And except perhaps for the racetracks, opposed to VLT's for which a split for the tracks was written into the law, the industry currently has absolutely no guarantees that it will benefit from expanded gaming. NYGA will tell us that the tracks will profit from increased traffic that the new table games will attract. But they don't quite explain how they would compensate for, say, the virtual roulette games with virtual women with their virtual breasts hanging out that will be replaced by real roulette wheels with real women (who will no doubt be hired partly on the basis of their breast size). Unless the legislature makes it so at some point, the tracks would get no revenue from those; nor from any table games that just happen to usurp space now reserved for slots. The harness horsemen have already started to make that case. As usually seems to be the case, we haven't heard from the thoroughbred guys. They're probably too busy trying to figure out the best way to navigate the new landscape in which they can win $18,000 worth of purse money in a single restricted $10,000 claiming race.

And Genting, the same company that not long ago pledged to be such a good neighbor to its racing friends next door at the Big A, has already floated the idea of shutting it down.
Looking forward, the firm has also pitched to state officials a plan to shut down horse racing at Aqueduct and redevelop the racetrack at Belmont to allow it to be used in the winter, according to people familiar with discussions. In turn, the land at Aqueduct could be freed up, which would likely need to be bid out by the state.

"It makes a lot of sense," Genting's Mr. Goode said. "At this point, it's just conceptual." [Wall St Journal]
Look, Aqueduct is going to close. It might be two years, five years, ten....but it going to happen at some point. It makes too much economic and logistical sense. I've heard top NYRA officials concede so. As I've explained before, I think it would totally suck from a horseplayer's point of view. The difference in the track configuration amongst the three tracks provides much of the juice and angles for handicapping. Year round racing (except for Saratoga) at the massive Belmont track with its one turn distance races would be dreary and monotonous over the course of 10 1/2 months. We've all known all along that, at some point down the road, horse racing would outlive its usefulness for the track/racino owners, going from the reason for their very existence, to a space and money-wasting burden. But surprised to hear Genting come out and actually say it so soon. Or...maybe not so surprised.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


- There was some incredulity expressed on Twitter over the fact that Raconteur ($2.40) was 1-5 in the third race at the Big A on Friday. 1:5 on Raconteur? Who bets horses like that? asked @andyserling. Seriously, I ask that about just about any horse who goes off at that price. Make that any horse. I know 20% ain't a bad return for a minute or two, but the whole concept of betting a lot to make a little is just foreign to me when it comes to horse racing, a venture in which scores of opportunities to do the opposite present themselves every day. (At least as far as betting on horses to win, as opposed to lose, but that's a different story for another time.)

And especially with a horse like Raconteur, who hadn't come particularly close to winning in five career starts at odds ranging from 6-5 to 7-2. Based on the form and speed figures, maybe 1-5 was really an accurate reflection of the horse's chances to win this particular race. But in cases like this, in a theoretical perfectly logical world, maybe the race simply becomes unplayable as far as win bets, and the players withdraw any money bet and there's no pool!

Those who did, for whatever unfathomable reason, wager on Raconteur to win, had to sweat it out more than they would like. Looked like he might draw away once he took command turning for home, but he head to hold off a resurgent Five Sixteen. Our friend the verbose chart caller described his victory in the most tepid terms you're likely to see in a results chart: held on well enough to reach the finish line first. prompting @DRFGrening to tweet: Don't let anybody see you cashing ticket on this horse. Personally, I'd sooner be seen in the casino.

Speaking of which, after a particularly slow Xmas week, the first full one with the full compliment of 5,000 VLT's, the win per machine figure at Resorts World rebounded to $353. That's still below the $380 figure that NYRA is using for their 2012 budget (a figure which would presumably be needed to attain and maintain in order to keep the current purse structure). However, looking at past years' results at Yonkers, it seems as if business there generally takes off from this time of year and peaks in February and March. Whatsmore, this is still I believe a 'soft opening,' at least in terms of marketing and advertising, of which I haven't seen any.

You probably by now have read of Governor Cuomo's proposal to build...or, have Genting build an enormous convention center at the Aqueduct site; where one presumes would also be in line for a full-fledged casino should that come to fruition.

The proposed $4 billion, nearly 4 million-square-foot convention center in Queens between New York City's major airports would replace the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. The Javits Center was considered too small almost from the outset and poorly suited for the kind of bold, glitzy convention center that would be appropriate for Manhattan as a world destination.. [Wall St Journal]
Well, I dunno, maybe I'm just dumb and naive. But I've been saying all along that Ozone Park hardly seems the place for any sort of 'destination resort' type of place. The Javits Center is "poorly suited," but this is a good location? Seriously, I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to plan a convention there, improved subway service from Manhattan notwithstanding. I mean, don't convention-goers want to have proximity to a wide range of restaurant and entertainment options? I don't think that Bar 360 and whatever cheesy music they eventually schedule at Resorts World quite qualifies.

And listen to this guy:
Heywood Sanders, professor of public administration at the University of Texas and an expert on convention center economics, said he doubted that the Queens plan would succeed.

“The convention business is a disaster everywhere,” Professor Sanders said. “Simply building more space gets you nothing more than a big empty building. And to put it in a place where there aren’t any hotels, restaurants or amenities next door is to doom it to serving only a local or metropolitan market.” [NY Times]
Just one man's opinion, however expert he may be on the topic, to be sure. (And in typical blogger fashion, I left out the retorting quote from an advocate.) But sure makes sense to me.

- Sorry once again for the sparse posting....been working on a project outside of my already full-time job. Will be back the meantime, best of luck at the races this weekend, and have a great day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Cuomo on Casinos

This is the text from the portion of governor's State of the State address dealing with expanded casino gambling. Nothing new....and no details on where the casinos should be.

Comprehensive Approach to Casino Gaming

We have long flirted and dallied with another potential economic engine — casino gaming — and when it comes to gaming, we have been in a state of denial.

It’s time we confronted reality.

It’s not a question of whether we should have gaming in New York — the fact is we already do. Native Americans have five casinos in New York and we have nine racinos at our racetracks. We don’t fully realize it, regulate it, or capitalize on it, but we have gaming. In fact, New York State now has 29,000 electronic gaming machines — more than Atlantic City, and more than any state in the Northeast or Midwest.

Our state is also surrounded by gaming. States and Canadian provinces just across our borders have legalized casino gaming. They get the tourism, the revenue, and the good jobs that belong here.It’s estimated that over $1 billion of economic activity from gaming can be generated in our state. Therefore, let’s amend the Constitution so that we can do gaming right. And let’s take the first step this year.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

State of the State And Other Stuff

Governor Cuomo will make his already official support for expanded gaming really officially official when he touts it in his State of the State address on Wednesday. Joseph Spector writes in this report:

Cuomo is considering whether to let the racetracks add table games -- which would make them full-fledged casinos -- or set up destination areas where casinos would be located. []
As far as I know, Cuomo is not expected to announce that determination in Wednesday's speech. And jeez, let's hope not! I mean, what fun would that be? We might be deprived of many months of BS like this:
"I think the governor correctly understands that what we need in the state is jobs," said Jeff Gural, a Manhattan developer who owns Vernon Downs in central New York and Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier. "And one good thing about table games is that it's really a jobs bill as opposed to a revenue bill.", Jeff. It's a revenue bill, make no mistake about that. Both for the state, and for prospective casino owners such as Gural (though not at all necessarily for the horsemen), who is part of the New York Gaming Association lobbying for the casinos to be limited to the nine existing racinos. Sure, it is a revenue bill that will indeed create some jobs. But truth be told, it would likely create more jobs if Cuomo opts for new destination areas without an existing infrastructure in place. (Watch the NYGA pivot smoothly into anti-casino advocacy should that become the case.)

The Seneca Nation tribe is gearing up to weigh in with an ad campaign in an attempt to maintain what they claim is their "exclusivity zone."
The Senecas contend they have exclusive gaming rights in western New York—west of Route 14, which runs from Wayne County to the Southern Tier. The tribe has withheld $350 million from the state in protest to the racinos at three western New York racetracks—Buffalo Raceway, Batavia Downs and Finger Lakes. Last month, the Senecas filed for arbitration over their claims. [Politics on the Hudson] (Again, the omnipresent Joseph Spector)
The Senecas are not opposed to casinos in other parts of the state; but, employing some hyperbole of their own, are arguing that the introduction of live person table games at those abovenamed existing racinos would imperil the economy of Western New York by threatening thousands of local jobs.
By opening the door for foreign and Las Vegas-style gaming operators to build casinos within the Seneca exclusivity zone, the State will be inviting these operators to take their revenues out of New York State to shareholders in Asia, Las Vegas and elsewhere. [Senacas Mean Business] (good job with the slogan there)
As opposed to, say, Genting? The state doesn't care that much what these companies do with their profits as long as they're generating and paying their share of the revenue. (And yeah, creating some jobs too.)

- The tight three-way race underway in Iowa as I write this (before Ron Paul weakened to third in deep stretch) had me thinking about the three-way dead heat in the 1944 Carter Handicap. (And no....I wasn't there, or anywhere!) There's no video of the race, but there is video of the 1974 edition. And man, that Forego was pretty damn good, doncha think? Wow.

(Dave Johnson was pretty good himself.)

- The Rangers won the Winter Classic and lead the Eastern Conference of the NHL. It was an exciting game with a thrilling finish, but one played on an ice surface which was clearly not ideal. (Great photo gallery from the game here.) A lot of talk about the officiating down the stretch. Some people who normally would never be associated with wild conspiracy theories about officiating are really scratching their heads about this one. Rangers coach John Tortorella said: "I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game." [Ranger Rants] (Best Rangers beat writer blog by a mile) While Tortorella has been fined in the past for comments on officiating, this is like Ron Paul-type stuff. He can expect a hefty fine for questioning the integrity of the officials and the league.

But man, with the Broadway Blueshirts (outfitted in an unbecoming white Winter Classic jersey that I suspect we'll be seeing more of until they sell out of them at the Team Store) leading 3-2 as the game wound down, there was some really strange stuff. Marian Gaborik clearly hooked on a partial break-in with no call. Ryan McDonough, the monster second year D-man acquired from the Canadians for Scott Gomez in a trade that could turn out to be the Ken Hodge-Rick Middleton deal of its time, was slammed into the goal post by a Flyer, thus dislodging it; yet the Rangers were the team that was penalized. Ryan Callahan was hooked up high while racing towards the puck with the Flyers' net empty, but was also whistled off on an incongruous diving penalty, later changed to holding the stick.

The one call I thought was actually OK was the penalty shot awarded to the Orange Crud with 19 seconds left when McDonough covered up the puck in the crease. My question there though is - who exactly called that penalty? I never saw either of the refs pointing at center ice to signal a penalty shot. And neither did any of the NBC guys, including sharp-eyed Pierre McGuire right down on the ice. Was it the result of some intervention from Toronto? Or from HBO, which didn't get a shootout to cap off their 24/7 series, but got something pretty darn close to it?

We usually hear grumbling from the losing coach. However, as former NHL referee Kerry Fraser told the Times' Jeff Z. Klein: “In normal circumstances, when the winning coach had something negative to say, I always placed more value on his comments than those made by a loser.” Indeed, Tortorella may set a record for the biggest fine for complaints about the referees by a winning coach!