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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slots, and a Plea to Keeneland


It appears there is a shot that the bluegrass state will get slots to prop up the industry there. This is of course great news.

I read with interest some of the comments regarding slots in Kentucky, and I completely understand as a horse owner the position Kentucky is in. However, the talk of placing so much of the revenue into only purses is worrisome to some who want to see the game grow on the demand side. The bulk of the revenue in Ontario, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere has been placed into purses. We all know that handles have been killed in those jurisdictions. It has done little to help grow our sport for the long term. Yes it has attracted a few more feed men, a few more vets, and a few more shippers and that can never be underestimated; but without an accompanying growth in handles, those things will all go away. We all know this.

Kentucky could lead us from the abyss. They are the jewel of racing. Keeneland particularly has been on the cutting edge in helping the player grow, and growing their business for the good of the business. They have been proactive regarding many, many player based issues. I think Keeneland should take a slots-stand: If slots are approved, 5% or 10% of the revenue should be placed in a slush fund with a grand plan to grow handles. Buy an ADW and rebate that money back, lobby for a betting exchange (it seems the Governor of the State wants online betting gone, so piggyback a new form of wagering for horse racing only and take advantage of it), use it to promote the hell out of racing; myriad things to grow demand. Kentucky has a chance to lead us, and we ask them to come up with something should slots be passed.

Chances like this come to us maybe once in a lifetime and we all know that slots are a band-aid. Other jurisdictions have not done a good job with this money. I am optimistic Kentucky will do the right thing for the long-term health of the sport and reinvest some of it on the demand side, so when the bandits are gone, we will still have horseplayers, eager to wager on the wonderful tracks of Kentucky.

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