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Dec 06, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-CHANGES

By: JOE GIRARDI


               As the calendar year comes to a close and we look forward to 2014 there have been a lot of changes over the last few months in the racing world, especially in New York and I am not sure that any of them are for the “bettor”.

               First at when the fall meeting started at Belmont, there were new tote machines, Amtote took over for United Tote. Obviously it took a while to get used to the new machines but at least this time there was help. Amtote had many workers in place to help in the transition and although there still some minor problems to work out, all in all it has been a reasonable switch.

               In early October, the Daily Racing Form, which for weeks had been advertising a newer and improved version of the Daily Racing Form released that version to my dismay. The product that now masquerades as the racing form is a joke. You cannot decipher the horses names in the running lines even though they took out the weights that those horses carried. The paper is very flimsy and easily tears. Because the “book” as I will call it is half the size of the old racing form it makes it hard to read, hard to turn the pages to look at other tracks and sometimes there could be 50 pages between the first half of a race and the second half because there are no longer any pullouts. One more thing to add, sometimes a race will cover 4 or five pages and there isn’t much room for notes.

               Well just when I thought I have seen it all, NYRA even topped itself. They have decided raise their admission and parking prices in 2014 for Belmont and Saratoga. The Grandstand admission will go from $3 to $5 and clubhouse admission will go from $5 to $8. It has been thrown around that this is only a modest increase and that these prices are in line with industry norms. Well guess what NYRA, you shouldn’t care about the industry norm. You should worry about yourself, you attendance at Belmont is the Summer time borders on embarrassing. If there are 800 people there during the week it is a lot. There were days when 25,000 would come through the doors on the weekdays and even more on the weekend, they were the only game in town before OTB. Unlike the form, who decided to change a great product into something not worth the cheap paper it is printed on, NYRA has major competition. They have OTB’s, online sites and casinos, one of which is connected to Aqueduct racetrack. By increasing the price for admissions and parking you will not only lose the limited customers who have been turned off by the NYRA throughout the years you will lose the way you make your money, the handle. It is different from a baseball game for example, they make money on admission, parking, overpriced food etc. NYRA or any other gambling establishment will make money when you bet money. Last Vegas, Atlantic City and other areas that have casino hotels, they make their money when those customers come in and wager. They have built billion casinos on those customers. That’s why they give away free rooms, free dinners, free tickets to a show because they make money on the money that’s bet, not on the hotel rooms etc. NYRA is cutting off their nose to spite their faces, what are they going to gain in additional revenue with this genius move, a few thousand dollars a day if the attendance remains status quo. I can assure you that you are not going to have people running to Belmont to pay $8 to get in and pay for parking to deal with a plant that needs an overhaul. The food is terrible, it is overpriced, there are still televisions on the second floor of the clubhouse that are older than me. There is no justification for a price increase and all it does is make the small group of diehards mad and turn them off. There are so many things that NYRA could do to make things more enjoyable at the races. Increasing admission/parking  prices to come in and gamble your money makes zero sense. If there was something to offer the fan besides what they can get at home from a gambling standpoint then maybe I can see it. You want fans to come to your racetrack, gamble on track means more money for the racetrack, gamble at an OTB or an online site the racetrack sees a fraction of that money.

               There is so much more to this topic I would need 10 pages just to get started but for now this is a jumping off point. I am hoping that the powers that be will listen to their remaining fans, because if not, when the casino doesn’t need the track anymore to exist, there are going to be huge problems. See you next week!



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