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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Strength of Racetrack Casino Industry Tough to Ignore

5 August 2009

The Illinois legislature would be wise to pay heed to the viability of the nation's racetrack casino industry instead of forcing the most successful casino operations in this state to subsidize the beleaguered horse racing industry with a three percent surcharge on adjusted gross revenues.

What's more, Governor Pat Quinn should think twice before signing the hastily passed gambling expansion bill that would bring video gaming to restaurants, bars and lounges in this state and take a look at an alternative plan to create a win-win situation for both casino gambling and horse racing.

According to the recently released "State of the States" report, a survey of casino entertainment compiled by the American Gaming Association (AGA), the racetrack casino sector of business continued to grow in 2008 while the commercial casino industry experienced declining revenues.

Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the AGA, reported that the racetrack casino industry continues to expand and remains one of the strongest sectors in the gaming industry.

Three new "racinos" opened in 2008, including two in Indiana, which became the twelfth state to sanction this hybrid form of gambling which combines pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing with casino-style gambling under one roof.

The other states with thriving racetrack casino operations are Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Gross gaming revenues at racetrack casinos in this country rose to $6.19 billion last year, a 17.2 percent increase over 2007. Contributions through direct gaming taxes to the states and cities where racetrack casinos operate grew to $2.59 billion, a 16.6 percent increase from the record levels recorded in 2007.

There are many factors that would make it relatively easy to introduce video gaming to the tracks.

First of all, there is already gambling taking place at the facilities, albeit pari-mutuel wagering. The tracks are already licensed and regulated by the state of Illinois.

There's also plenty of room and plenty of parking. The existing tracks were built to accommodate crowds in the tens of thousands. On-track attendance is nowhere near that these days because of the availability of off-track wagering facilities and the fact the casinos have competed so successfully with horse racing.

Horse racing and casino-style gambling is really a perfect match. Instead of forcing the casinos to support horse racing, both industries are better served when they combine their respective strengths and appeal in the form of a racino operation.

Horse racing programs are bolstered with a substantial influx in purse money, which is attractive to owners, trainers, and breeders.

The sport of horse racing at one time had a virtual monopoly on mainstream gambling in this country, but once lotteries and then state-regulated and Native American casino operations proliferated, its appeal began to wane.

There's still time to save racing without forcing it to be a dependent of Illinois casinos, a situation that is unfair to both of these valuable industries.

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