Saturday, October 6, 2007

Slots and Racetracks

Are slots the great savior of the racing industry? I think the answer is yes...and no...
Slots, if utilized to supplement the racing product, can be a great help to the industry. In my view, this means a small slot parlor with perhaps 500 - 750 slots in a location. The proceeds need to bolster purses, sure. But I also think that a portion needs to be set aside for the Don MacBeth fund for disabled jockeys. In addition to some state taxation (it's inevitable, but can't be onerous like we see in some states), there should be money for retired racehorses and to promote the live product. The live product, the racing, that's what is important and cannot be set aside as an afterthought while corporations build slot palaces with a racetrack attached. That'll be the surest way to kill racing off. We will never return to the heydays of the pre-war era, but there is no reason that racing cant climb back into the American sports conciousness. The Kentucky Derby has become a great television event. I'll be curious to see the ratings on Breeder's Cup Day to see if headway is being made.

The Barbaro saga, sad as though it was, showed that the public can be captivated by a horse. The success of the book and movie Seabiscuit also shows that the audiance is there. My new home track, Canterbury Park, does a heckuva job promoting the place. There are days with between race bands, dollar nights, family days with pony rides for the kids - they know they are an entertainment destination and need to compete with all the Twin Cities have to offer. Many mid-level tracks around the nation struggle each day to make ends meet. A page can be taken from the Canterbury book. Additionally, bringing in the incremental revenue and patrons that slots can bring can help bolster the racing product. As long as the live racing remains the focus, then slots can be a very good thing for America's ailing racing industry. I would prefer, however, that should tracks get slots that racetracks bcome racetracks with slots, not slots with a racetrack.

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