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Dec 31, 2004

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


As a New York native and a fan of New York racing since I was

 five years old which makes me a loyal fan for over 25 years—going to

 the NYRA tracks every chance I got, betting on the NYRA tracks almost

 every day for over 20 years, taking every vacation to greatest place on

 earth, Saratoga Race Course, it disappoints me to see what is happening to

 the state of racing in New York these days. With all the legal troubles the NYRA

 has gone through the past few years the fact remains that they have been going

 through troubles with their fans longer than that.

If you go to the racetrack like I do almost everyday when Belmont is open

 and Aqueduct a few times a week you can see how much the attendance has

declined. It has gone from the huge crowds in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s

and 80’s to an almost embarrassing number. The listed attendance is not an

 accurate portrayal of how many people are actually there. The people who are

 there are getting up in age, many people that you see during the week

especially, are over the age of 60. There has been nothing done by the powers

that be to get new "blood" so to speak into the game. Look at the new craze

 created by Texas Hold’em poker. The ESPN coverage has been instrumental in

 familiarizing people with the game. However, with racing coverage everyday

 in the paper, racetracks on Long Island, NY and Ozone Park, NY there is the

opportunity for new fans to be created.

It seems to me that the powers at NYRA, in their attempts to get people to

 come to the racetrack they give away t-shirts, hats, clocks, etc. Yes this may

 be good to get a few extra people to come to the track but it does not by

 any means solve any problems. The people coming for these promotions are

 not horseplayers, yes they pay the admission but if they stick around to bet

 they are $2 bettors. These people don’t come to the track unless there is a

giveaway and they are not repeat customers. The customers that are repeat

customers, the ones that are there in the dead of winter, the ones that show their

 loyalty are treated the worst.

Those of you that go to Atlantic City or Las Vegas know how it is to be treated

as a customer, lets say it a gambler. They are offered free rooms, free

dinners, free prizes and those are the ones that don’t bet big. The so

 called " high rollers" are given suites, they are given limos to pick them up,

helicopters, airplanes anything they want they get. This is because those who run

the casinos realize that they have competition all around them. They want you

 to come to the casino, they want you to bet with them—it is beneficial to

their business. It is almost to the point where it seems that the NYRA doesn’t

 want you to come to the track. They don’t do anything to entice people to come

 there and play. When you drive up to the any of the NYRA tracks you are

greeted with a parking fee. If you want to park closer, then there is an

additional parking fee. As you approach the gate there is a charge to enter the track.

 Then there is a charge for the program and racing forms. Also if you want to

bet on the other simulcast tracks there is yet another charge for another

 program. They close the track before the simulcast races are over and you are

 told that it doesn’t matter if you bet the race you are stuck. The customer service

 is disgraceful and it still amazes me how everyone seems to be surprised when

 no one shows up and they are losing on handle. They don’t see how the 300

people that pay the parking, the admission and buy the programs maybe amounts

to $1,500, which is being generous, is not going to save racing. If there was a

 reason to go to the track instead of OTBs, staying at home or God forbid

playing with a rebate shop then maybe they would get more business. Believe

 me an extra 500 horseplayers, getting treated the right way will far exceed $1500

in their handle.

The VLT’s that everyone is waiting for as the savior of racing is on hold. Well

instead of counting on that, why not get the people back to the track, get the

 people playing the races on NYRA tracks. Get the handle up, the attendance

 up, get horse racing back where it should be at the top of the list. Horse racing

 is called the Sport of Kings but anyone can play. Anyone can own a horse,

anyone can bet on the races anyone can go out to the track. There isn’t enough

 room here to go on about what the track should be doing, that can be saved

for another week.

One of the most ridiculous moves by the NYRA was their changing of the

 tote machines. They switched from Autotote to United Tote. The new

machines have to be the most ridiculous machines I have ever seen and I

 have been to many tracks. Four months later they are still having trouble

with them, wait until Saratoga when the crowds are large and most people are

 not regulars. Wait until the Breeders’ Cup, that will be even worse. The most

 important people at the racetrack are the customers, no customer, no game.

No customers were asked about the switch, it was yet another thing shoved down

their throats. Well slowly but surely everyone is seeing that and are fleeing the

 NYRA. Customers are leaving and dying off, they are not being replaced and

 with the state of affairs for the customer right now, it would seem to me that

this is not over yet. The attendance will go down, the handle also to the point

 before they realize that you can’t treat people that way anymore. There is too

many places to go now, rebate shops, places that treat the customer like

 a "King". And until the NYRA makes changes, does the right thing, they are

 getting everything they deserve.



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