SPORTS BETTING SOARS

The latest figures on sports betting in New Jersey released this week are record-breaking and revealing. Bettors sent in $445 million on games, the highest handle since the state legalized sports betting.

What is especially noteworthy and important to racing is while sports betting is soaring, the handle on table games and slots, the core business at Atlantic City casinos (racinos are prohibited from offering the casino staples), was down 3.2 percent.

A lot of dollars that used to be spent on roulette, craps and card games have moved to football and  other sports.

Once racinos realized the massive profits available on casino games, windfalls that do not require contributions to horse racing purses and maintaining vast stable areas, it began to treat racing as a red-headed stepchild.

Two prime examples: Churchill Downs Inc. blowing up Calder and the disrepair that makes Aqueduct as appealing as subway restrooms. In fact, few people expect the Big A will still be around as a race track five years from now.

Sports betting already has proven in New Jersey that it is far more popular than any form of legal wagering offered anywhere and new states are jumping on the sports betting bandwagon every month.

Just imagine the financial implications for New York racing when Gov. Cuomo gives the OK for sports betting.

A teachable moment

The China-NBA contretemps should be a red flag for horsemen considering the new $20 million race in Saudi Arabia in February.

In light of recent events it’s inevitable someone will pose the question to horsemen about why they would support a venture intended to put the murderous kingdom, where gays are assassinated in gruesome ways, women are treated like property and human rights isn’t even a concept, in a better light.

The truthful response would be they are doing it for the same reason LeBron James and the NBA are groveling before the Chi-Coms—for the big money involved. This, of course, would be unacceptable.

However, there is an expedient way to avoid controversies like the one dogging the NBA. Demonstrate a social conscience and don’t go.

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