Thursday, October 04, 2012
Team Cuomo's premature leaking of their preference for privatization provided a precarious preview of the practice of politics applied to problem-solving for New York racing.
All the Governor's horses and all the Governor's men still haven't put the New York Racing Assn. together again. At least, the executive order that officially reorganizes the NYRA and makes the search for a new chief executive possibly has been issued.
Presumably, Team Cuomo’s next encounter with the press will address shorter-term problems and display more of the increased competence and decreased corruption that was promised during their premeditated displacement of their predecessors.
It occurred to me while watching "‘Ahnold's’ "60 Minutes" interview Sunday night that racing seems to turn governors into "Governators." In 2009, Hollywood's imaginary "Terminator" signed a bill increasing takeout on exotic wagers at California tracks.
The bill had been pushed through the legislature by his CHRB Board appointees who literally dismissed prepared statistical testimony by horseplayers and California’s chief executive either preferred casinos to fill the state’s coffers or was looking for Native American PAC money, or both.
'"We're going to be putting a new board in place to basically take control, and then how you do the business of quote-unquote horse racing and what is racing in the future, and how do you really incorporate all the knowledge and potential of the entertainment industry, which is a big component of this, is something we're working through," Cuomo said.
... Cuomo said he was not necessarily pushing for the racetracks to be put in private hands.
"I'm not really a horse racing expert," he said. "I don't know this industry especially well. The point of the exercise of appointing the board is to do the study and the research to answer that question."'
At most venues, privatization might be a valid alternative, but not so Saratoga Racecourse which is itself a museum of racing, a bastion of American tradition, and the source of fond memories that millions of life-long racing enthusiasts have, will take with them to their final resting place after, hopefully, passing their passion to the next generation.
Saratoga also is the centerpiece of a vital community and cultural center that most rational people would protect and preserve for future generations, not to mention an economic engine for that region. The big-picture profit motive, however, is not always compatible with such objectives.
Belmont Park, home of the too-often irrelevant Belmont Stakes, is also a scenic setting that would merit preservation if its sprawling surroundings capable of supporting the capacity crowds (100,000+) of Triple-Crown attempts, could attract them in years where the same horse doesn't win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Most telling is that -- even hosting six Breeders' Cup Preps on the sixth best day of racing, nationally -- attracted fewer than 9,000 on-track patrons. Belmont's residential community offers little to entice patrons from getting right back on the parkway.
OTBs, ADWs, alternative forms of gambling, the inconvenience/cost of getting to the track and the emergence of large-screen HDTVs that outperform binoculars have all negatively impacted Belmont attendance. Aqueduct faces the same problems but must also contend with weather/temperature variables.
Now it’s the second-class treatment of horse racing’s customers as compared with those of Genting’s clientele. Is profitability even a possibility while maintaining two physical plants ten miles apart without VLT revenue?
People are getting tired of hearing endless generalities but no specifics as to how racing will be promoted as a downstate entertainment destination. At some point the reality has to set in that the downstate track(s) must embrace the off-track customer to survive.
The NYRA can provide the product necessary to be the most entertaining venue – on-track and off – if it will start catering to recreational rather professional/high-volume bettors.
The new NYRA must take the lead by lowering direct takeout sufficiently that all customers are attracted to compete on a level playing field. It must then publicize who some of the winners are, and how they won. Promote socializing among players and support groups of fans of consistent winners.
The component combinations comprising each exotic IRS signer should be available for on-line viewing, and willing winners interviewed as to what thought processes were involved. Demystify winning and enable others to share and enjoy the experience; even if only vicariously. Some progress has been made in this area but much more is needed.
Create player partnerships that legally enable tax liability to be distributed among partners. Providing this service to NYRA account holders betting on-line would provide a competitive advantage to NYRA and grow customer interest substantially. Providing such a service to on-track patrons meeting for the first time could also augment couples handicapping contests for singles. Handicapping can be great entertainment as an activity done on one's own but even more entertaining as part of a group.
On Monday, New York's "Governator" signed the bill giving state appointees "temporary" control of the NYRA board for the next three years as reported in the Times Union '"Because it isn't just reporters who have deadlines, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed the legislation laying out the reorganization of the New York Racing Association, including the creation of a control board that will place NYRA in state hands for the next three years. The bill had to be signed by midnight.
We still don't know who the appointees to the board will be — though those names will be coming "in the near future," according to the governor's news release.
… "New York State's racing industry is a major economic driver in the state, supporting thousands of jobs and attracting tourists from around the world," Governor Cuomo said. "New York taxpayers and the betting public deserve a racing industry that is managed competently and does not neglect the health and safety of the horses.
“The NYRA Reorganization Board will restore public trust, accountability, and transparency to the racing industry in our state, so New York can continue to offer one of the most exciting, enjoyable, safe horse racing experiences in the nation. "'
The piece went on to quote several powerful legislative leaders who will be involved in making appointments to this "Reorganization Board."
The wagons are circling. Is filing one's tax return at the last minute the equivalent of the Governor's eleventh-hour heroics after more than three months had elapsed since the bill was passed?
Procrastination without production has been known to precede prevarication. Team Cuomo's priority should be "restoration" of transparency.