Racino ripoff?

This story from the Times Union suggests that the VLTs at Saratoga may have shortchanged a bettor by deducting a greater amount from her accrued credits than the cost of each bet she made.  The Lottery, which partners with the racinos in running the games, apparently removed some machines for testing.  The racino apparently made good on the player’s complaint by giving her $200 free play.

This story does not prove that the racino is deliberately cheating patrons, but it does raise some questions, especially given the big expansion of gambling that is imminent in New York:

1.  Is it appropriate for the Lottery, a partner with the racinos, also to be the body that regulates them?  Government regulation of gambling always presents an implied conflict of interest when government derives revenue from the regulated casinos, but the Lottery-racino relationship seems a lttle more potentially conflicted that that of an independent regulator that is not partnered with the gaming operator.

2.  Are the racinos the most appropriate operators of full-fledged casinos?  In addition to this latest problem, they have, by omission if nothing else, misrepresented their video poker machines (with the tacit approval of the Lottery), as documented earlier on this blog.  The racinos are lobbying hard to be permitted to offer “real” casino games, and one would have to believe they have a leg up on other potential entrants, since they already are operating gambling venues, and therefore will probably face less local opposition than outsiders trying to establish new facilities.

As the TU story notes, this most recent irregularity, viewed in conjunction with the NYRA scandal involving its retaining more from certain horse bettors than the law allowed, raises serious questions about the integrity and management quality of existing gaming operators in New York.  It also shows the need for a strong, comprehensive and independent regulatory body if public confidence in gaming in New York is to be maintained or restored.  Without that confidence, gambling will not produce the revenues to the government that are needed and expected.

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