MUSINGS

Following are a half dozen miscellaneous items about horse racing and casinos.

1. The New York Racing Association’s newly constituted Board of Directors established eight major goals to achieve in the next three years.

Four of the goals are especially welcome: (a) implement best practices to protect equine health and safety; (b) optimize the racing experience for NYRA customers; (c) enhance quality of thoroughbred racing at NYRA tracks to maintain NYRA’s traditional position of national leadership; and (d) judiciously employ new technologies to the benefit of the wagering public.

Customers have at times received shabby treatment from NYRA and safety issues at Aqueduct have been a problem. One of the possibilities being considered is to convert Aqueduct to a synthetic surface in order to mitigate breakdowns during winter racing. Another proposal is to eliminate winter racing altogether. Both of the Aqueduct changes would be controversial.

The view here is that a fifth recommendation—“prepare NYRA for re-privatization”—is the best one of all. In the vast majority of cases, the private sector performs more effectively than the public sector.

2. Lance Armstrong recently went on Oprah Winfrey’s television show to admit what almost everyone already knew, that he had used prohibited drugs during his bicycling career. Don’t hold your breath waiting on a few serial violators of drug regulations in horse racing to follow Armstrong’s example by offering up a mea culpa.

3. Violence, the name of many experts’ current Kentucky Derby pick, stands out so negatively in the wake of proliferating gun mayhem across the United States. Even though the colt’s dam was named Violent Beauty, her talented son should have been called something besides Violence. Were he to win the Kentucky Derby, imagine the headlines and the criticism. Contemplate the stretch call as the announcer informs that Violence has taken the lead in deep stretch at the Belmont Stakes.

It is difficult to fathom why an owner would put this unfortunate and provocative moniker on a horse and why the Jockey Club would approve it.

Violence may engender more buzz as a result of his name than any horse in memory.

4. Woodbine Entertainment Company in Toronto recently terminated the employment of over 100 people and the breeding industry in Ontario is in disarray, owing to the provincial government’s ending of the slots-at-racetrack program. This scenario could very well repeat itself in the United States and likely will. Already, elected officials in racino states are increasingly questioning the wisdom of subsidizing racing purses with a portion of slots revenues. The agribusiness argument for the subsidy is a valid one but is becoming difficult to make in an era of severe state-budget shortfalls. Governors and legislators are desperate for additional revenues and the slots subsidies are low-hanging fruit.

5. Regional casinos have had a deep effect on Atlantic City, New Jersey. In the past six years, revenues are down by 42%. Trump Plaza just sold to Meruelo Group of California for $20 million. This is the lowest sale price ever for a casino in Atlantic City. Little wonder that New Jersey is trying to expand into sports betting.

6. Northfield Park harness track near Cleveland is in the process of becoming a Hard Rock racino. Northfield’s longtime chief operating office, Thomas Aldrich, has been elevated to vice-chairman of the racetrack’s parent company, Milstein Entertainment. The new COO at Northfield is Brent Reitz. I have been acquainted with both of them for many years and know that they are highly competent executives whose promotions are well deserved.

The competition in Cleveland will really heat up once Northfield Park and nearby Thistledown are fully converted to racinos.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

Comments

  1. I wondered as well about naming the horse Violence. What an embarrassment to the owners/trainer and unfair to the horse.

  2. The headline in today’s Gulfstream racetrack daily newspaper is “Advocating Violence.” It’s a story about Saturday’s Fountain of Youth stakes. This is what we can expect as long as the horse is a contender. Not good.

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