GUEST EDITORIAL By Dick Powell
Dick Powell is a racing renaissance man. A former lobbyist for New York racing, Powell is an industry consultant, writer, handicapper and lifelong horseplayer currently residing in Saratoga County. So it is no surprise he has strong feelings and serious concerns about what a full blown casino might mean for world class racing at Saratoga Race Course
A Full Blown Saratoga Casino? Be Very Afraid
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY--Like the people that read this column, I am always willing to take chances and admire those that do.
That said, how in the world can anyone think putting a full casino right next door Saratoga Race Course is a good idea? Who wants to take the chance of damaging the crown jewel of American racing? Not me.
When the New York casino constitutional amendment passed in 2012, it called for four casinos to be built outside of New York City. There are four regions that were carved out upstate in and around agreements with Native American gaming sites.
One such region is the Saratoga/Albany area and it will definitely have a casino with poker, blackjack, craps, roulette etc. Saratoga Raceway has a video lottery facility across Nelson Avenue with 1,782 VLTs.
The VLTs have been in operation there since March of 2014 and purses for the harness horsemen have more than tripled.
One could argue that part of the decline at Saratoga Race Course the past 10 years has been due to 1,782 VLTs only a few hundred yards away. If that is true, it is a very small part. Walk through the Raceway's gaming floor and you will see more walkers and oxygen tanks than horse racing products. There is little crossover but logistically it had to hurt some.
In 2001, when the VLT legislation was being proposed, I was the media spokesperson and strategist. Nobody wanted VLTs at Saratoga Race Course for many reasons and we knew that the ones next door might have some impact. That was more than balanced by 5,000 VLTs downstate at Aqueduct so the net effect was going to be extremely positive.
The late Bruce Hamilton, executive director of the Harness Breeders of New York, was the driving force behind the effort to get VLTs at New York racetracks and there should be a statue of him outside of every facility. He was indefatigable.
Now, Saratoga Raceway is pushing hard for the table games to complete the transition from a "racino" to a "casino." The problem is that table games attract an entirely different clientele. Horseplayers love to play cards and various games of skill.
From the 80/20 female-to-male ratio that exists now, it will change to about 50/50 and the increase in males will be ones that also like to play horses.
Big Show in Big Apple; Samraat, Bayern Break Into HRI Power 10
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 1, 2014— The Gotham was billed all week as a rematch between undefeated Samraat and Mr. Sigh, the ding-dong 1-2 Withers finishers that left the rest of the horses behind.
It turned out to be anything but a two horse race. It was a three-horse race! And one hell of a three-horse race it was.
The prep season has only begun to get serious and the rest of the members of the 2014 class will be hard pressed to put on a show like the one seen yesterday at the Big A.
It’s not often you get a three-horse battle at any age from the quarter-pole home, with each of the horses at some point looking like it might win.