Thursday, December 9, 2010

Horses for Courses

These are the times we live in. National and international finances are very depressed… unemployment is raging… and in NYS we are worried whether or not NYRA, OTB, and our Race Courses will be operational in 2011. Does this make sense? These are gambling institutions, they pry on the weak and needy offing them a glimmer of hope to “hit it big.” I’m not trying to profile or generalize, but the proof is in the pudding. It’s unfortunate, but venture to any race course (other than splendid and glitzy Saratoga) on a weekday in January and tell me what type of clientele is sitting barking orders at his jockey/horse as it rounds the turn heading for home at Aqueduct. This state has made a very large portion of our residents addicted to gambling, and many are gambling away there last dime. Doesn’t this seem backwards?

Why should NYS taxpayers continue to foot the bill in bailing out NYRA and OTB? We all know that these organizations are staffed via patronage to the Governor, Shelly Silver, and every other NYC special interest. It would appear that these individuals couldn’t run a blow dryer let alone a state authority in charge of gambling revenues. Realistically, NYRA and OTB are bookies and I’ve never heard of a bookie (in areas where gambling and betting is legal) who regularly lose money.

Let me offer my opinion on what to do as a solution. Simply rid these authorities of corruption, disband NYRA and strictly regulate OTB and make it a free market entity. Take all NYRA’s race courses and sell them to the counties in which they operate. Honestly, it’s only those counties and their local municipalities that benefit from them. Saratoga County residents realize a tremendous tax benefit due in-part of the Race Course. Those that live in other counties wouldn’t lose out on the deal because the minimal amount of revenue received through tourism will still be there. Rather, they would benefit from the fact that the taxpayers in their counties won’t be funding the continued mismanagement of the race courses. But, before doing so, do an honest study; can these race courses be profitable? We’re told of all the NYRA tracks Saratoga is the only profitable meet. If this is true, close those that are failures. Taxpayers keep hearing that the downstate race courses need Video Lottery Terminals (VLT’s) similar to those at the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway to make money. How can this be? Stop asking “me” for money to fund a failing operation all while doing nothing about it. My wallet is not your tourniquet.

I know what I have said is not be a popular stance to take publicly. Would closure hurt the racing and horsing industry in NYS, obviously yes, but it would open people’s eyes. If these industries are necessary, then fix the problem. I firmly believe the race courses should be owned and operated by the local municipalities, not cronies out of NYC. But if better management can not be realized and closure is the only solution then adopt legislation legalizing gambling and have VLT’s throughout the state making us some money. I like the races just as much as the next guy, but at what expense? Maybe no racing will make the light bulb go “bing” in people’s minds and snap them out of their Saratoga Summer Time Romance.

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