Once the details are cleared in Maryland, New York and parts of Florida, blinking lights, bells and annoying sound effects turned on, the vulgar things known as “racinos” will have reached critical mass on the Eastern Seaboard and order will be restored to the hierarchy of racetracks.

Purses will be larger than in the pre-racino era but in the same relative order and any advantage will have been lost. Delaware, long the pacemaker in the race for slots, will resume its position at the rear of the scrum. Once every track that matters has slots or VLTs or whatever they may be called the circle is closed. At that point, it matters not that a racetrack has some form of slot machines, but what it does with the new traffic to expose the local racing product.

The trend so far has been virtual segregation of the races from the casinos, but this makes no sense. Slot players and horseplayers have little in common and the managements of racetracks have begun the casino operations with the view that never the twain shall meet. There is no view of live racing from racinos, no race call, and no exposure to simulcasting. Segregation of gamblers appears to be the business model.

It would take little effort to cross market, minimal additional expense to design casino and restaurant facilities with exposure to racing and only a modicum of planning to, perhaps, design traffic patterns that required passage through or at least past simulcast areas in order to reach the casino.

The making of a horseplayer requires exposure to the sport. Throughout history, this has been accomplished one person at a time. Another draw – regardless of how vulgar – has serendipitous potential. If one in a thousand crosses the invisible barrier and becomes interested in racing, the effort to market the sport simply through casual exposure will bear fruit. The sport is its own best marketing agent.

First, though, someone with enough vision to see the light must have to courage to take a new and uncharted course. What is there to lose? -- PM