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Dec 13, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-PROBLEMS WITH NYRA

By: JOE GIRARDI


               The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War when the Greeks used a “Trojan Horse” to enter the city of Troy and win the conflict. The Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, hid their troops inside the horse while the others pretended to sail away. The Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. As that night came, the Greek forces crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army which had sailed back under the cover of night. The Greeks entered the city of Troy and destroyed the city, unquestionably ending the war. Now what does this have to do with Horse Racing you may be asking yourselves? Well the Trojan Horse has entered Aqueduct racetrack and they will be destroyed.

               Genting, which runs Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, is the proverbial Trojan Horse. New York racing which used to be the tops in the country took years to finally bring in the slots to help subsidize their racing product. Although it was approved years earlier the casino at Aqueduct has only been operational for a little over two years. This was supposed to be the savior for New York racing like New York racing should have needed a savior. The casino and the racetrack were supposed to work together. The races were supposed to be on in the casino, each product was supposed to help the other. Well guess what? That is clearly not the case. The casino runs all the concessions at Aqueduct racetrack, hugely overpriced, undervalued food. If you walk through the casino at Aqueduct, a very nice one in fact you wouldn’t know that there was a racetrack just 100 feet away. This goes for all the “racinos” I have visited in New York State. So much for working together! If you go outside to watch the races at Aqueduct and stand on the side of the casino you can’t hear the call of the race. The Trackus system which was in place at Belmont has apparently been in the “testing” phase at Aqueduct, from what I understand the casino is not allowing certain poles that Trackus needs to be constructed on “their” side. It is clear that Aqueduct is Genting’s track and they will do whatever they want and there is nothing NYRA can do about it.

               Back to the raising of the admission prices that NYRA announced for 2014 at Belmont and Saratoga. The Belmont attendance is extremely low and raising the prices with the competition a few minutes away (Nassau Otb) makes no sense whatsoever. It is clear that you are not going to the have the casino to help subsidize the purses forever, the casino got in because of the racetrack because they needed them, now they don’t need them and they will do everything to get them out. What will NYRA do then? You need to cultivate a new audience, or better yet get the old audience back. Raising prices to get into the track when someone can go down the block, get track odds, watch the races on television in their house or watch all the races on the computer doesn’t make good business sense. Does NYRA really believe by raising the admission prices will help boost attendance? The way the racetrack makes money is to create handle, the more handle the more money the track makes. The NYRA makes more money when the money is bet on-track as opposed to bet at an OTB, or another ADW. There are too many options out there to try and cannibalize your current audience by raising admissions, etc. There hasn’t been a good faith feel about the NYRA amongst their customers in a long long time. I have been saying this for a long time now, if you don’t build up the horse racing side of things you will eventually go out of business. The casino can only help for so long, there are plans for more casinos, and the same people at Aqueduct can’t be at Yonkers, Monticello or any new casino that is built in the tri-state area and vice versa.

               Why would the NYRA try to lose customers? What are the plans for the future of the NYRA? Growing up at the racetrack in the late 70’s and into the 80’s I saw this first hand at Roosevelt Raceway. They ran the track into the ground, they raised admission and parking and did everything they could to alienate the fan. The attendance went way down, the handle was on its way down and those who had control said hey we can’t make any money here. Well the land was sold for a huge windfall for some and the historic track was closed down. Part of my childhood closed with it. I don’t like what I am seeing here at the NYRA, things were supposed to go in the other direction with new leadership etc, things were supposed to stabilize, it is clear they are not. I don’t want to see another part of my childhood go away as well as something that has been part of all of my adulthood.

              



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