With gambling establishments all over the country showing declining revenue and many filing for bankruptcy, New York is counting on a million dollars a day from the yet-to-be-built Aqueduct racino to save NYRA and provide millions of dollars for the general fund. This raises two questions that have not been answered to my satisfaction:
1. Why should any portion of the racino VLT revenues be used to subsidize horse racing in general, and NYRA in particular? True, it’s an industry that employs tens of thousands in New York, but many other industries that have lost their customer base have been allowed to fail. NYRA’s management seems to me to be nothing but an anchor attached to a leaky boat — horse racing in general has lost its fan base to other spectator sports and forms of gambling, and NYRA’s management has, over the years, accelerated that trend with irresponsible and illegal actions, and many poor business judgments. I’m sure that many former horse racing fans have, like myself, grown tired of race after race of unplayable New York breds, rising takeouts and sleazy OTB parlors that have the nerve to take a surcharge on winning bets. If any of the VLT money is diverted to racing, it should be on condition that NYRA develop a plan to transition to profitability by canceling its unprofitable meets, such as Aqueduct, and concentrating its resources on maintaining the competitiveness of its viable Belmont and Saratoga meets. In racing, less is more – year-round racing of low quality benefits no one except the horsemen and women connected with the inferior stock that is not worth shipping south for the winter.
2. Are the projected proceeds of the Aqueduct racino realistic? While the racino will enjoy a tremendous competitive advantage by virtue of its location within New York City and its proximity to millions of potential customers, it probably won’t be competitive in any other respect. There will be no table games (which other states in the northeast have found ncessary to add to their slot parlors to compete with Atlantic City and southeast Connecticut). The video poker will not be real (see post below at https://capitolview.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/and-furthermore/). The high tax rate will necessitate high takeouts and low comps. While many low rollers will visit at least a few times (and addicted gamblers more than that), high rollers soon will seek better opportunities.
Of course, it’s easier to put a few hundred million in anticipated VLT revenues in your budget projections than to raise taxes or cut spending, but I’m not overly optimistic that the Aqueduct racino, if it ever gets built, will live up to its billing as an attraction or as a money-earner for the State.