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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finding Out the Hard Way About Slots

For years racing has known that slots and slot deals were predicated on a band-aid, and that deals drawn up in 2000 would look very different to deals drawn up in 2010. Jeff Gural, the New York real estate magnate and owner of harness track's Vernon and Tioga, said several years ago when cautioning that we have to do something with the cash to grow the wagering part of the sport, not just the supply side of it: "When slots ask why we need racing, we better have an answer".

In late 2009, Pennsylvania took about 16% of the funding from slots that was earmarked for racing. Now we see similar in Maryland, before slots have even been installed.

A bill introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates would redistribute revenues from the video lottery terminals, allotting as much as $50 million more to the state for the purchase of the machines than was previously earmarked. That money comes at the expense of the purse dedication account -- funds set aside to increase winnings for racers, which would be slashed in half.

Until slots money is used in a more beneficial way - to grow the bet, and the customer base so we can stand on our own two feet, instead of used solely for purses - this will probably be common-place in racing. The pie gets shrunk, but we can not even withhold signals or go on strike to ask for a bigger slice, as is the norm in racing. The government will simply tell racing to take a hike; ironically something that horseplayers have been telling racing for some time now, as the massive handle losses of the last six years show.

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