That cannot be confused with ‘depressing,’ though that is often the case, Ernie. Think about it: What other sport’s media commentary is so mired in ‘what the sport can do to get better.’
Poor sport. Perhaps all it needs is a friend, a willing ear, a pat on the back, a shot of Jack, a gaming summit!
But one such note, that your very own John Pricci writes about in his Morning Line column, that expanded gaming is tantamount to the success of horse racing in New York.
A full-scale casino is in the works for the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, which, as Mr. Pricci says, rests just a few furlongs away. If that doesn’t seem like a threat, know that where I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts many people made trips to either Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods for a fun night and that was hours away, not just one hour away.
So what is the Empire State to do? And, more importantly, what will become of the Triforce of racetracks: Big A, Big Sandy, and the Spa?
For one, identify horse racing for what it is: a legalized gaming sport, just another game of chance, albeit somewhat more calculated.
I’d like to see the tracks turn into casinos with table games, roulette wheels, poker tables, and black jack tables. Horse racing will just be another game to play and collect dollar bills.
There will be high roller rooms and just think, Saratoga’s Curlin Café could be put to good use with $1,000 minimum black jack. Hit me. 16. Hit me. 18. Hit me. 23. And if some of these tables overlook the track maybe they’ll get distracted and hit on 19.
The Connecticut Sun, yes a WNBA franchise, play at a casino. Why can’t horse racing be the same sporting event that takes place in and among the morally lecherous activity of gambling, excuse me, gaming? Think of the crossover potential. That annoying loose change in your pocket after you cash that winning Daily Double ticket? Throw it into a slot machine. Everyone wins! ... except you, because you just got hosed. But did you? You’ve been imbibing Heineken and gin and tonics all afternoon. You hit the Pick 3. You lost your shirt and won it back.
The rewards potential is awfully enticing as well. Sitting down at a table with a losing horse racing ticket can be a voucher for X amount of dollars per ticket. Or the other way around. Sitting down at a black or poker table grants you betting vouchers at the windows.
Better still would be the legalization of sports betting. As someone who spends most of his mornings in a Las Vegas sports book a few days every March, having sports parlays available while playing the races is what YOU do.
There’d be nothing like playing the Late Pick 4 at Belmont ending with the Jockey Club Gold Cup and snaking in a parlay with Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and USC football on the same day. Women’s field hockey? Why not, just give us an honest line.
But then again, we won’t, because things in New York State move as fast as Chip Woolley in his crutches.
So the money will drip out of New York like an IV bag into its neighbors’ veins. New York needs some serious dough and people will be willing to make it rain outside its borders.
So horse racing remains depressed. And, really, what better way to build up one’s self esteem than by giving it a bunch of tokens, a free drink, and saying, ‘Go have fun.’ It’s fool proof!
Brendan O’Meara blogs about horse racing here at HRI and at The Carryover. He also blogs about narrative nonfiction and his book project “Six Weeks in Saratoga” at The Blog Itself. His Web site is http://www.brendanomeara.com.