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Feb 08, 2008

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            I took two short trips over the last week and a half and it made me think about the state of racing in New York and the problems they are having out in California with their synthetic surface which has caused numerous cancellations.

            My first trip was a short one and it landed me in Atlantic City. I was going down there to watch the Superbowl with some friends and root for the Giants. Even though I am a Jets fan I wanted the New York team to win. After enjoying a great game and starting my way back home I realized that my short stay there was a pleasurable one despite some losing at the tables and of course in the horse room.  I realized that the casino will go the extra mile to get your business. It started with a free room and meals,  and something a horseplayer would need, hey this is a novel idea, give away free racing forms to those that bet with you. This way I will come back to your place of business and your handle will increase on track and this way the tracks will make more money. As the deadline for the short term franchise extension nears there is a strong possibility that racing in New York may be halted, shutdown, cancelled, pick any word you want, they all mean the same thing; the greatest state for racing will be without it for what could be an extended period of time.

            As I was traveling over the Verrazano bridge I was thinking what could have been. What would racing in New York be right now if the slots were in place years ago when they were approved and how strong the product would be if it was done the right way. The purses, which are very high to begin with would be astronomical. The racing product on the track, which is the best in the country would only get better as more trainers would want to race here, thereby creating more horses along with more betting opportunities, which creates more handle thereby making the horse racing product strong.

            Back in May of 2006 NYRA introduced a rebate program for those who bet with the NYRA rewards card either at the track or over the phone and most recently over the internet. Now it is not the top rebate program around but it was a start. However, when it comes to other ammenites besides the small rebate, there are no free racing forms, programs, admissions, parking, or food for the day based on your play. This is the difference with Atlantic City, they are trying to entice you to bet with them, this way helping you, the horseplayer with supplies you need and in turn getting the handle at the their venue which makes them the most money. NYRA either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care. Hey if one of their players is betting $5,000 for the month through NYRA and they are making roughly $750, don’t you think $150 a month in racing forms is a good idea to make sure they don’t lose this customer to OTB or maybe an internet site that offers a lot more money back. At this point I guess it is a blessing if racing continues past February 13th.

            My second trip was to Dover Downs racetrack in Delaware. This is a harness track and my stop there was to see a horse that a few of my friends own race in a qualifying race as he prepared to make his first start this year. He wasn’t able to get behind the gate as he was sick this week but hopefully he can get back on track for next week. However, the reason I’m telling you this is because they have slots down there and they do it the “RIGHT” way. The hotel that is built right on the grounds is beautiful. There are many restaurants, shops, and plenty of slots, video poker or even blackjack if you want to play with a virtual dealer that is. Believe it probably doesn’t make much difference especially after the way the cards were running in Atlantic City just a few days earlier but that is a story for a different day. At Dover you can sign up for a capital card which tracks your play in the casino and can also track your play on the horses. The more you play the more you get. You build up points which can be used for racing forms, free food, rooms in the hotel etc. By the way in case you want to relax your room and play the horses you can. There is a betting machine in the room if you request it and the television shows all the races that you could bet downstairs. Just think the racetrack rewarding you with things you need based on your play. Oh and by the way, they also have a cash back program depending on how much you play. The mutuel manager and publicity director were very helpful and they even have a HORSE host. That’s right someone that caters to the horseplayer and in case you were wondering there are casino hosts down on the casino floor.

            With all the problems New York racing has been going through and with Southern California being forced to cancel as they have problems with their track, to see it done right was refreshing. Let’s hope that if NYRA ever does get the slots up and running they take the short ride (less than three hours) to Dover to make sure its done right. And if that trip is too long they can go to Atlantic City in about two hours and 15 minutes to see how they do it. Again, let’s just hope they will be racing for the rest of this year.



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