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Race Track Casinos Gain in Popularity Nationwide

16 June 2010

Racetrack casinos, a tax revenue generating component in 12 states, out-performed the gaming industry as a whole for the second straight year according to figures in the newly released 2010 State of the States report compiled by the American Gaming Association.

While overall revenue from gaming in 2009 declined by 5.5 per cent, consumer spending at racetrack casinos rose five per cent. The increase was fueled in part by the first full year of operation of the two Indiana racetrack casinos located in Anderson and Shelbyville.

Six racetrack casinos in Pennsylvania generated $1.579 billion in gross revenue, of which $742.69 million was distributed to state and local government. The eight 'racino' operations in New York showed $1.019 billion in gross revenue and $455.48 million in tax revenue.

The other states which have operating racetrack casinos are Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Which brings us to the question of whether or not horse racing and casino gambling under one roof are a good mix, or are racetrack casinos merely a convenient way to expand state regulated gaming?

Certainly horse racing has everything to gain and nothing to lose. A portion of the revenues generated by the casino gambling component of racino operations go toward supporting horse racing programs.

Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races and casino style gambling are entirely different activities. One of the great appeals of betting on horse racing is the cerebral input that serious handicappers use to select winners. Computer programs and the availability of advanced statistical information make pari-mutuel wagering a studious pursuit in contrast to the 100 percent luck factor associated will all casino games with the exception of blackjack and poker.

Long before the popularity of casino gambling as a recreational and leisure-time activity, before there were state-sanctioned lotteries and Internet gambling, before college and pro-sports dominated office-run betting pools, horse racing reigned supreme as the entertainment of choice for people with an inclination to place a bet.

Horse racing was covered in the media as a major sport on a daily basis. Every newspaper had a "beat" reporter in the press box filing stories for every edition. The results of the "Daily Double" were printed on the front page of the afternoon news sections. The first late morning edition was called the "turf" edition because it had the late scratches from tracks around the country.

Horse racing was a fact of life in America. It enjoyed a reputation as the nation's No. 1 spectator sport for decades. Racetrack grandstands in major cities were filled to overflowing on weekends and holidays.

Betting on horse races on-site was legal in all states with pari-mutuel wagering legislation, but even kids back in horse racing's hey-day knew that all book makers didn't work in binderies. Friendly neighborhood bookies could be easily accessed at corner newsstands, tobacco shops, bars, restaurants and even the work place.

So what happened? Competition for America's entertainment (and gambling) dollar, that's what! State lotteries, casinos, the proliferation of motor sports, in-home entertainment outlets such as VCRs and DVDs, the Internet and the expansion of other sports and the duration of their seasons have all helped to push horse racing out of the limelight it once enjoyed.

In some respects, horse racing has also been forced to play second fiddle to sports betting. Despite the fact that wagering on the outcome of athletic events is illegal in every state except Nevada, newspapers everywhere are loaded with odds tables, point spreads, injury reports and other information pertinent to wagering on football, basketball, baseball, etc. The majority of the newspapers' readers are not placing their bets at the sports books of Las Vegas but with their local bookies or on the "net".

Racinos just may be the horse racing industry's only way to fight back.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp