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Left at the Gate

Thoroughbred Racing and other opinions.

Last Build Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:18:43 +0000


A Tale of Six Trees

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:14:00 +0000

Mike MacAdam covers horse racing and local sports for The Gazette in Schenectady.  He's an excellent writer, and a really nice guy too....and I say the latter not only because he wrote so eloquently about impending changes at Saratoga, thereby saving me the trouble of having to write a post on the topic while the Head Chef and I are away on our annual summer extravaganza down at my mom's house near Sarasota, FL.  In case you missed it last week, here is Mike's column (embedded here via Twitter with the hope that you'll be able to bypass the newspaper's paywall).Under Chris Kay, @TheNYRA keeps chipping away at what makes Saratoga special. My @dgazette column:— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) June 27, 2015This column, written after Chris Kay's remarks at the annual preview press conference last week, sums it all up perfectly, from the price gouging to the "creepy corporate Disneyspeak" defending it, to the proliferation of "pockets of exclusivity in what historically has been one of the most democratic places in the country."  It's just perfect, so please give it a read. Not at all necessary for me to say much more.But yes, as you might have guessed, I do have a little to add.  It's obvious that Mike, and the aggrieved customers quoted in the column, are personally offended by such changes.  And I know that all of us who have, year after year,  had the privilege of attending this historic track, of which all of us are indeed "possessive," feel the same way.  So please don't take it the wrong way when I say that the Head Chef and I feel even more personally affected than some others may be.  And that's because the area behind the Carousel is where we have stationed ourselves for many, many years.  It's bad enough that the main floor Carousel is being turned into a premium sports bar (for which one has to pay to sit at tables).  But that picnic area behind it, where we have spent so many wonderful days, will now be significantly altered - and reduced - by a "Red Jacket" museum. Not sure exactly where it is, but Teresa was there and informed me that it's "very close" to where we usually sit - "a little to the south." Don't know my north from south around there, but "very close" is very close enough.  (In fact, while I had relented to the Head Chef's wishes regarding going to Saratoga this summer, this news has made even her hesitant.)And that's right, this area is being compromised for a museum.   Don't want to speak for all of you, but this horseplayer, in over 35 years of Saratoga, has attended the existing National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame across the street from the track exactly once; and I don't really remember a thing about it.  Seems to me this new museum will be more for the "guests" than for the horseplayers who support this whole endeavor. Not sure exactly what the point or purpose of plopping a museum in the middle of a track is....will they be charging admission?  While supposedly a tribute to Saratoga legends, as Tom Noonan succinctly put it, "one suspects it is really a tribute to Chris Kay."But what might be the most upsetting aspect of this whole sorry affair to me - more even than the price increases, infringement of popular picnic areas, and the hypocrisy of this NYRA - is the fact that six grandiose trees have been cut down in order to make way for a museum.  Now, I wouldn't quite put myself in the tree-hugging category, but those magnificent, cloud-scraping trees that populate the backyard of the track are, to me, an integral part of the experience; a major, if not the major, contributor to the majesty and tranquility of the place. Many a time have I drifted into a sedate state of meditative bliss lying back in my chair staring up at them. (True, at times while under the influence of various mind-altering drugs conducive to such a state, but still...)  To take trees out of Saratoga is like removing flamingos from Hialeah, the San Gabriel mountains from the backdrop at Santa Anita, or the crie[...]

Cap This

Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:28:00 +0000

Here's the latest bit of hilarity from NYRA CEO Christopher Kay (at least before Wednesday's board meeting - with this being posted a few hours prior - which is likely to include even more yuks): "Anyone familiar with Saratoga Race Course will understand the impact of the promotional giveaway days in influencing attendance numbers, which renders inaccurate a direct comparison to today’s gate numbers.Two years ago, Saratoga hosted four giveaway days and recorded each “spin through the gates” by guests to secure multiple souvenirs as paid attendance. Each of these days yielded an average attendance of anywhere between 50,000 and 55,000. Contrast this to last season when the New York Racing Association discouraged spinners, resulting in an accurate promotional day count of between 25,000 and 30,000 guests during each of the four giveaway days – as opposed to totals of between 100,000 to 120,000 “phantom” guests for the entire Saratoga meet in the prior year. And data from earlier years indicated even larger discrepancies due to the counting of spinners." [Saratogian] This coming from the man who presided over an equally - if not an even more insidious - padding of attendance numbers last summer, when season pass holders were counted as attending every day of the meet whether they were there or not.  With a total of 6,370 passes sold (though not from day 1), and 40 days in the meet, you can do the math to determine what the potential exaggeration was last year. May, or may not, have been 100,000 to 120,000, but I'd guess that it wasn't tremendously far off those numbers. Of course, Kay did not allude to that little bit of accounting wizardry.  This goes squarely in the category of you can't. make. this. stuff. up.  And I say it's possibly even more insidious than the spinning numbers because, at the same time, this NYRA regime was trying to tell us just how transparent they are.Kay also announced that, should American Pharoah run at Saratoga - possibly in the Jim Dandy on August 1 - attendance at Saratoga would be capped at an unspecified number.Oh boy.  Well, as you probably know by now, NYRA capped the attendance on Belmont Day at 90,000, though, as I contended in the last post, they quite obviously didn't even manage to sell that many admissions; all one needed to do was look at StubHub the morning of the race to know that was the case. (And that, by the way, was a major fail.  Can you imagine if the prior regime couldn't sell out a Belmont Stakes with a Triple Crown possibility with a limit of only 90,000?   As was the case last year - and as they bragged to the NYRA Board - NYRA saved money on marketing, letting the news-worthiness of the event do the advertising for them.  Apparently, that publicity did not outweigh all of the terrible publicity garnered by the way they mishandled the bigger crowd in 2014.)Now, I've seen people who were there say, 'well, I was opposed to capping the attendance, but it worked out!'  Well?  Of course, if one is at a big event and there are not all that many people there - say around 87,000 people in a plant which has handled as many as 120,000 (and better that year than this "big event" team handled a smaller crowd in 2014) - they're going to think 'hey, that was great!' By that logic, why don't they limit the crowd to 60,000, imagine how convenient everything would be!  But, in my opinion, that's hardly the point.  Big racing days draw big racing crowds, and the challenge is for management to accommodate everyone who shows up and make them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.  The attendance cap was nothing but a copout by a NYRA team that proved itself incompetent the prior year, and which was unwilling to step up to the plate to make the necessary improvements.Horse racing has been conducted at Saratoga for some 150 years and never, at least as far as I know, has the attendance been capped.  Some of those days have sucked for some people, whether from it b[...]

Now What?

Tue, 09 Jun 2015 20:20:00 +0000

These are my daughters, Chelsea and Kayla, at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.I was not there.  Partly because I had such a miserable time there last year, and mostly for reasons that I'll get into later in this post.  Anyway, if anyone had told me 10-15 years ago that my daughters would be at the Belmont and I wouldn't - especially with a horse going for the Triple Crown - I would surely have figured that it was part of some kind of memorial ritual for their old man!The big question - considering how bad of a time so many people had there last year - is: did they have fun?  Let's see.Guess we'll take that as a resounding 'yes!'  Along with two friends including Amanda (the Panda), pictured in the middle here, they headed to Jamaica station to catch the Long Island Railroad at around 2. They arrived at the track around an hour later with no problems.  They immediately hit the bathroom, no doubt due to consuming all of their drinkables on the train (I offered help in sneaking in alcohol); and reported that the line was long but moved quickly.  Apparently, they had no problem purchasing additional beverages at the track.  After the races, they enjoyed the harmless, though pointless, wimpy pop of the Goo Goo Dolls, and then headed back to the LIRR.  Prepared for the worst by railroad officials and by their dad, they instead walked directly onto a train with no wait, and even got seats.The combined gross betting handle for the four of them on the day was $1.....though Kayla generously allowed NYRA to retain the $1.75 that her ticket on American Pharoah was worth at the time (it's now apparently worth around $25 on eBay; more if you include some finish line dirt [looks more like a dime bag]).  Kayla is actually a fan; along with my stepdaughter Chloe, she has attended the races with the Head Chef and I on more than just a few occasions, including at Saratoga and Del Mar. They're usually good for about ten bucks a day each (generously supplied by you-know-who) based largely on paddock observation.  Chelsea is not a fan, nor is Amanda (the Panda); but, based on this experience, no reason why they wouldn't go to the Belmont again, especially if a comparable wimpy pop or faux-punk band is playing.  (Or, especially, Diplo, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.) Unfortunately, there were no coupons issued for free admission in the future, guess that's too complicated of a concept for NYRA.From what I've read, theirs was a pretty typical experience.  Unless I've missed something, aside from a few complaints about bathroom lines (women in the mens room again) and wifi (the girls had no issues with that), seems like everything went pretty smoothly.That does not mean, however, that I'm here to praise NYRA for the effort. Chris Kay and his minions came into town touting their ability to stage the "big" events.  On that count, they failed miserably last year; both in the execution and the aftermath.  I find it pretty hysterical that the main strategy from this "big day" team was to make their biggest day significantly smaller, by capping the attendance at an alleged 90,000.  To me, handling a big day at the races means being able to accommodate the largest crowd possible by anticipating the worst and having the contingencies in place to deal with an overflow.  Under these controlled conditions, the task was made far easier. Sure, some credit is due; it was still a big crowd; and the music surely helped in controlling the outflow after the races, so that was a good plan. But it was also a huge copout, and the easy way out. And NYRA doesn't actually care if my girls or the other 86,998 or so paid attendees had a good time; only in the sense that they can take a PR victory lap and go before the board with their hands out for raises and bonuses.And yeah, about that crowd, I don't believe for a single second that NYRA really sold 90,000 admissions; I think they're full of it.  I looked at [...]

Casinos Losers Looking For a Do-Over

Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:02:00 +0000

Here is the letter sent to Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan, respectfully requesting that the state re-open the casino bidding process.  It was composed by an attorney writing "on behalf of several clients" who participated, unsuccessfully (obviously), in the NYS casino selection process last year.   hodgson russ.pdf class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_22334" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> It reads a lot more like a formal legal petition to a court of law than a friendly missive, complete with sections and subsections, footnotes, legal citations, and repeated mentions of ominous phrases like "arbitrary and capricious."So, one can surely surmise where this is likely headed after the Gaming Commission either issues a polite declination or ignores it altogether.  After all, this attorney is not one who spends her time saying "pretty please," and I do not think she was engaged simply to write a letter.  Michelle Merola is a partner at Hodgson Russ LLP, a prominent name in gaming law.  And, on their website, she is described as a government-disputes lawyer with extensive experience litigating civil and criminal matters in a variety of federal jurisdictions as well as New York State.  A significant portion of her practice is dedicated to defending corporations and individuals in government investigations, audits, and administrative proceedings related to tax, environmental, fraud, and health care matters. She also regularly challenges agency determinations in New York State courts through Article 78 proceedings. We've discussed Article 78, in detail, in the distant past; and it is the means by which the Finger Lakes racetrack/racino is challenging the license recommendation to the Lago facility in Tyre, a lawsuit in which Hodgson Russ and Ms. Merola are also involved.In addition to being an accomplished litigator, Ms. Merola is also apparently more than just a bit of a masochist.  For the reasons set forth below, the Commission should decline to issue any licenses based on the current recommendations and direct the Location Board to start the entire process anew...Oh, man.  Can you imagine going through this again, from scratch?  Another round of cheesy presentations of bucolic ponds, designer gardens, and happy families golfing and eating and drinking and laughing and frolicking through the grass or snow and doing everything and anything other than the only reason why they are being lured there in the first place?  Six more months of Kevin Law and Stu Rabinowitz?  I think I'd rather be strapped to a chair a la Alex in A Clockwork Orange and be forced to watch the video of Happy for as long as it took Senate Republicans to allow a vote on Loretta Lynch.  (Well, maybe not quite, but....)  Besides, by the time a second round would be over, the casino bubble may already be shattered to smithereens and we may be on to the next big thing, like......oh I dunno, maybe reading books, or going to the movies. Or the track.Well, this would seem like a desperate shot in the dark, except that I'd imagine that Ms. Merola has better things to do than to sign up with a lost cause.  The letter delves into the language of the enabling legislation, and attempts to show how the process evolved in a way that violated the "very specific statutory requirements set therein."  It refers to the weighting percentages that the legislation quite specifically directed the Location Board to utilize - 70% for "economic activity and business development factors," 20% to "local impact and siting factors," and 10% to "workforce and enhancement factors" - about which Ms. Merola makes two main points:  1) The board, in fact, strayed from that "required scoring;" and 2) the board added a new cr[...]

Tyre Casino Opponents Heading Back to Court

Fri, 16 Jan 2015 14:00:00 +0000

As all eyes were on the Gaming Facility Location Board as they voted unanimously to re-entertain the notion of a casino in what is considered to be the "true" Southern Tier region, casino opponents in Tyre are gearing up for another attempt to stop the Lago Casino which was recommended for a license for the region instead.  Despite the fact that Wilmorite has not yet been issued a license by the Gaming Commission (and apparently don't yet own the land), it is already building a retention pond in an area away from the main road.  Casino opponents are keeping an eye on the proceedings with a drone, and I received this photo along with a note declaring that Wilmorite is already "destroying some nice woodland and farmland."As you may recall, the casino opponents suffered a resounding defeat in court when they first filed their Article 78 proceeding against the process by which the Town Board conducted the required environmental review (SEQRA).  I wrote here about the SEQRA process and some of the objections as to how it was conducted in Tyre; about the lawsuit here; and about the verdict, in vivid detail and with an appropriate amount of dismay, here.Now, CasinoFreeTyre is back with an appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals, with some new legal help and a motion bolstered with new arguments, a multitude of case citations, and a bit of swagger.  It's a good read as far as these things go, so I've embedded it below for those of you who are interested.  For those of you who aren't, the opening paragraph, reprinted below the document, pretty much sums up the substance and spirit of the document.   Tyre Article 78 Appeal class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_3768" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%">At the dawn of the SEQRA era, State and local officials rushed through approval of the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University on the strength of a negative declaration of environmental significance.  This Court rejected such an obvious violation of SEQRA's mandates, and in doing so, created the "hard look" standard now embodied in the SEQRA procedures.  See H.O.M.E.S. v. New York State Urban Dev Corp., 69 A.D.2d 222 (4th Dep't 1979).  Now before this Court is a similarly rushed review, for a project of even greater scale than the Carrier Dome - a half-billion-dollar, 450,000-plus sq. ft. hotel and casino with 3,300 parking spaces, and related infrastructure - on the strength of a review notable for its acknowledgment of multiple significant potential adverse impacts, but absent any consideration of those impacts.  If Wilmorite's Lago Casino can pass muster with solely a negative declaration, then this Court should simply declare H.O.M.E.S. overturned and SEQRA repealed.  (Of course, the Carrier Dome was ultimately built.)  Briefly, for those of you not inclined to dig back into the past posts linked to above, the Town Board, in Part 2 of the SEQRA forms, identified ten items as likely to result in "significant adverse environmental impacts," but then proceeded to gloss over each and every one in summarily dismissing them as concerns in Part 3.  The plaintiffs assert that the Board "failed to take a hard look at the relevant areas of environmental concern, failed to discuss what, if any, mitigation was contemplated to ensure the impact areas it identified as potentially significant would not be, never reviewed the criteria for determining environmental significance, and did not provide any basis for its determination whatsoever."  Again, further details on their complaints, as well as how this SEQRA process is totally stacked in favor of the "lead agency" conducting it (in this case the Town Board), - which is free to interpret the issues in a way[...]

Odds and Ends, Briefly (Kind Of)

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 12:57:00 +0000

Greetings from the spectacularly beautiful island nation of Grenada!  As I'd mentioned, the Head Chef and I are away on vacation to mark a special occasion, and we still have several more days to go.  Once again, a happy, healthy and safe new year to all.  Just checking in with a few thoughts while I have a wireless connection, but will endeavor to be uncharacteristically succinct so I can get back to doing not much of anything at all..  Governor Cuomo lost his dad on the same day that he was inaugurated for his second term.  I wasn't much into state politics when Mario was governor, so, by far, I remember him most for his 1984 convention speech, and his flirtation with a presidential run.  His far less articulate son will never be the keynote speaker at a Democratic convention, and likely will never be anointed as the party's presidential candidate at one.  He has however done a graceful job of balancing his comments in the wake of the Eric Garner grand jury decision, the protests that it spurred, and the tragic and senseless cop killings that neither the protestors nor the mayor had anything to do with.  I could go on a bit here....but I'm on vacation, remember?  Having said that, one can surely understand why police officers would be inflamed by the mayor and police commissioner's deference towards Al Sharpton, who built his career by inflaming racial tensions with spectacular accusations when- and wherever he could get his then-fat face in front of a camera (at a time when that didn't come as easily as it does today).  Our buddy and longtime reader jk posted an article from the Post about the Reverend's involvement with bidders for the Aqueduct casino. - The governor's letter to the Location Board asking it to reopen the bidding for a casino in the real Southern Tier has the potential to open up a can of worms.  Ulster County Executive Michael Hein wants the board to re-consider a license for the Nevele.  On a Tuesday letter to the Gaming Commission and its siting board, Hein, a strong supporter of the Nevele plan, wrote: “It is my strong belief, motivated by legislative intent and fairness, that the new round of applications includes the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region, not just the Eastern Southern Tier/Finger Lakes Region.” [Daily Freeman] The Nevele was the only unsuccessful bidder in the Catskills/Hudson Valley region that was singled out in the board's final report; it noted that their financing was not complete.  Hein noted that, back in the day, competition in the Catskills "was not a detriment, but rather fostered broad commercial success among a network of resorts."  I imagine that Mohegan Sun and Louis Cappelli, rejected in their bid at the Concord, would share these sentiments as well.This article, which I found at the Ithaca Journal site, is chock full of information about the tracks that are likely to be negatively affected by the controversial casino in Tyre; the non-Southern Tier selection in the Southern Tier region.  Could go on extensively about it if I wasn' know.  It's worth a read if you're interested in the subject.  In summary though: Finger Lakes is screwed.  In another example of something that those who wrote this law and created the gerrymandered Southern Tier region obviously didn't think about:  Finger Lakes, only 27 miles from where Lago is supposed to be built, will not have purses supported by the Lago casino at 2013 levels because it is in Region 6.  But Tioga Downs, which is nearly two hours away, will receive purse support because it's in the same Southern Tier region.  Go figure that one out.  Estimates as to how much business Finger Lakes will lose range from 21% (the study commissioned by Lago) to 50% (the track's estimate).  Guess we can figure the real damage will be somewhere in between. - Business is br[...]

Cuomo Seeks A Do-Over

Wed, 31 Dec 2014 15:46:00 +0000

When the Gaming Facility Location Board announced their three casino license recommendations a couple of weeks ago, we acknowledged that the process appeared to have been independent of outside influence - particularly that from the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo - and admitted that we were wrong to predict and insist that that would not be the case.But now, instead of interfering with the board's deliberations and decisions behind closed doors while the process was ongoing, the governor is doing so right out in the open, asking it to reconvene and reconsider its refusal to issue a license to the Southern Tier....the "true" Southern Tier, that is.  "The Binghamton area is tied for the region with the highest unemployment rate in upstate New York, and stands to benefit greatly from new jobs and economic development in the region," the letter states. Cuomo wrote that he wants the siting board to consider issuing a new request for application "to seek a qualified applicant to submit a new bid" for the fourth license in the "true Southern Tier." [Albany Times Union]   The governor is trying to get a do-over.  You know.  A do-over.  You remember.  When the whiny and entitled kid in the street or playground pick-up game would demand that a play that didn't go his/her way be re-played.  "I wasn't ready!"  "I called time out!"  "The ball hit the wire!"  "A car was coming!"  "Sally farted in my face!"In this case, the lead crybaby was Jeff Gural...though, to be fair, he was leading a chorus of complaints from not only those in the Southern Tier who felt they were bypassed unfairly and unwisely, but from those who questioned the decision from around the state as well.  And we don't at all disagree with those cries.  The decision to award the Southern Tier region license to a location well north of it - one which is already filled with gambling options; and in a little rural town where opposition to a casino is adamant  - was a baffling one, no doubt.But the problem is this: Cuomo's letter to the board comes not long after Gural, acting like the entitled crybaby that some consider him to be, ranted and raved entitled crybaby.    ""Um, I was asked to help get the law passed. I spent about $800,000 of my own money to get Proposition One passed, only to get put out of business. I mean, I, I think it’s a joke to be honest with you."......."And what really pisses me off is the governor asked me to spend $800,000 of my money to pass Local Law 1, Proposition One? What was that all about? I mean—why would—the whole thing is sickening to be honest with you." [Capital New York] So, for the governor to react shortly thereafter by appealing to the board - which is made up of a co-chairman of his first gubernatorial campaign, another former campaign aide who he later appointed to chair a state agency, two gentlemen who he appointed to their current co-chairmanships of a regional economic development council, and another whose wife, a current Westchester District Attorney, he once appointed to head a prominent ethics committee - to let the crybaby get his way, seems rather inappropriate.  Though hardly atypical or surprising.  Sure, Cuomo's letter couches his intentions in an effort to "excite national competition by interested parties that submit even better applications than the first round." But nobody really believes that any parties other than Gural and Tioga Downs would be interested in a region in which no outside companies were interested even before Atlantic City casinos started going broke, making it increasingly apparent that the northeast is over-saturated with gambling facilities.  Nor that this is anything other than a direct effort to set things right with a person who actively supported one of his key initiatives with his mouth and his money.The g[...]

Expected Reactions in an Unexpected Place

Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:58:00 +0000

The language in the reactions we heard last week regarding the selection of the Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre was the kind that we thought we might be hearing from aggrieved casino supporters in the Catskills had licenses been issued to Orange County applicants instead. "Something's wrong," Broome County Executive Debbie Preston said. "It's a slap in the face to the people of Broome County and the people of the Southern Tier." [PressConnects] .......State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, called the news "a punch in the gut to the Southern Tier." []......."To not pick a Southern Tier location — Seneca County, in all due respect, is not in the Southern Tier," [Sen. Tom] Libous said. "I'm extremely upset. I'm very, very disappointed." [PressConnects] .......A day after the casino vote last year, Cuomo showed up in Binghamton and applauded the addition of new licenses as he stood in front of a podium with a sign that read: "Funding for Schools ... Jobs for the Southern Tier." [PressConnects Editorial]Well, no casino jobs for the Southern Tier; at least what those living in that part of the state would consider to be the Southern Tier.  As in....the actual southern tier.  The above-referred-to editorial continues: As Cuomo said at the time: "We're losing over a billion dollars to the neighboring casinos — New Jersey has casinos, Pennsylvania has casinos, Connecticut has casinos." Cuomo was right.If a Binghamton resident decides to go to a full-service casino, that gambler likely drives 76 miles south in Pennsylvania to the Mohegan Sun casino in Wilkes-Barre. After all, Turning Stone Resort and Casino is 87 miles north. Others in New York are even farther away.Of course, not everybody up in the Finger Lakes region is thrilled about the decision either....especially those in Tyre who have been trying to block the construction of a casino there.  The CasinoFreeTyre group, unsuccessful thus far with their legal actions, will try again; this time, asserting that the developers' plans grew larger between the time that they were, controversially, approved by the Town Board, and the time that they were formally submitted to the Gaming Commission. That may sound like a technicality.....but recall that a judge ruled in the previous lawsuit that the town was not required to post the SEQRA forms on their website because it didn't have a high speed connection.  So maybe technicality is a language the court will better understand than it did common sense.And the horsemen at the Finger Lakes warned that a casino in Tyre could put the track out of business.   If actions are not taken by state officials to protect purse account levels and avoid a drop in state tax rates paid by the state, Brown said "racing at Finger Lakes will be gone in two to three years." He said 90% of his 500 members could not stay in business if purse levels drop below the $20 million or so mark they've been running in recent years. [Bloodhorse] Kevin Law, the chairperson of the Location Board, told reporters that the decision was between Lago and nothing....prompting Jeff Gural to call that the stupidest statement I've ever heard anybody make in my whole life. And, in that interview, Gural again demonstrated the sense of entitlement that he had about this process. "I finished the garage. I spent a quarter of a million dollars on Winterfest, thinking I would get the license. And I got screwed." [PressConnects] In an absolutely delicious bit of irony, Gural is conducting a joint press conference on Tuesday morning along with Traditions at the Glen, the other unsuccessful applicant in the so-called Southern Tier region.  There - and I am writing this before the press conference whereas you are likely reading this afterwards - he and Traditions are reportedly set to announce a joint effort to win the 4th casino license whi[...]

Location Board Gets Two out of Three (Not Four) Almost Right

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:20:00 +0000

The Gaming Facility Location Board has spoken, and no, their decision did not favor the politically connected bidders as I'd anticipated would be the case.  If there was a backroom deal with members of the New York Gaming Association in the weeks preceding the referendum vote in November, 2013, it was obviously scrapped and left on the editing room floor.  Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs, and James Featherstonhaugh of Saratoga Raceway and Casino are both left without their coveted casino licenses. Instead of sticking to the script of intervention, influence, and interference which is well worn in Albany, particularly with the sitting governor of New York, the board did their job earnestly and independently, so it seems.  I'm happy to admit that I was wrong, though I will offer no apologies for the nature of my suspicions.That said, I don't think that the location board got this all right.  And they surely showed zero sense of drama!  They led off with the most anticipated aspect of their decision, revealing right off the bat that there would be only three license recommendations, with none of them awarded to an Orange County bidder.  Which, as you may recall, wasn't really the idea in the first place.  Not sure what the point of that entire Orange County exercise was, other than to cause a lot of angst and a lot of wasted time, effort, and money on the part of those who mounted bids for a facility there (including money that was directed to well-connected lobbyists and to politicians' campaign funds).It also appeared as if the board didn't succeed in keeping their decision entirely to themselves.  Trading in the stock of Empire Resorts, set now, pending final licensing by the Gaming Commission, to be the operator of the Montreign casino at the old Concord resort in Thompson, NY in Sullivan County, was frenetic in the days leading up to the decision.  The stock (NYNY, and I still don't understand how they got that symbol!), flirting around 6 1/2 on Dec 12, rallied to 8 on Tuesday on heavy volume.  (It soared to 9 after the announcement before selling, and perhaps some buyers' remorse, took hold and drove it down to 7.13 by the end of Wednesday's trading session.)   And I was surprised on Wednesday morning to see that I was now being followed on Twitter by Galesi Group, who teamed with Rush Street Gaming on the winning bid for the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady.  Perhaps that didn't mean anything, and I don't mean to be presumptuous enough to think that anyone there or anywhere really cares about what I write or think; but I wouldn't think that the folks at Galesi would be curious to see what anyone had to say on Twitter if they didn't think they were going to be selected.The third license, awarded to Wilmorite for their Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, is where I think this board really went off the track, ethically and logistically.  We'll get to that in a moment.The recommendation for Montreign is surely no surprise, even to those who weren't trading NYNY stock, given its location in the Catskills, an area which has been practically begging for casino gambling for decades.  It's a lavish proposal with all of those amenities which we're told will attract gamblers to travel to upstate NY from NYC and beyond; an unproven concept which has no precedent here.  Just go their homepage, roll over the letters as instructed to see all of the nonsense intended to dazzle and distract from the facility's true purpose - to get people onto the gaming floor and keep them there as long as possible.I have some mixed feelings about their selection.  Of all of the regions that were considered, the Catskills is surely the one which warranted a casino given its history as a faded resort area, the enthusiastic support there, and the lon[...]

It's Show (and Tell) Time for Location Board

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 05:28:00 +0000

It's a busy time of year, so sorry again for the sparse posting of late, as the announcement of the Location Board's recommendations in the casino sweepstakes fast approaches.However, the action will really just be getting started once Kevin Law tells us who the winners and losers are (and it's subject to one's interpretation as to whether the winners are the winners or the losers) some time shortly after 2 PM on Wednesday.  The reactions from the developers and the communities will surely span the full gamut of emotions ranging from euphoria to rage, and either, or both, will likely be heard and felt from winners and losers alike.  Some will appeal directly to Governor Cuomo, questioning how the results comport with the spirit of the casino law. Some of the bitterness could spill into the legal arena. Then the Gaming Commission will begin their process of assessing each of the recommended candidate's licensability, with the help of the State Police.  As I've pointed out, recent history suggests that the ultimate result could differ from what these gentlemen come up with on Wednesday; I'd rate the chances at around 25% that that turns out to be the case.  That phase will be another chance for the meddling governor to meddle.  This location board is one thing.  Despite the fact that it's comprised entirely of men with past ties to the governor - some more so than others - they seem to be earnest about their task, and we can only hope that the two members, at least, who I'd surmise are certainly on Cuomo's contacts list haven't been getting gubernatorial texts in the middle of the night.  But the Gaming Commission is Cuomo's commission. If, for some reason, he has a strong opinion against any of these development teams, it's hard to believe that this commission will proceed contrary to his wishes.Regardless of whether or not that's the case, you can be sure that not all of the losing developers are just going to slink away.  One can expect a plentiful helping of mud to be slung towards those winning teams in whom the others may sense some vulnerabilities with respect to their licensability.And, of course, once everything is worked out, we shall see just how fast they get built, how many good jobs they really create, how much business they bring to (or suck from) surrounding communities, how their results stack up against their projections, how many local customers declare bankruptcy or lose their homes.But it will all start on Wednesday.  The Public Notification issued by Gaming Commission would qualify, I believe, as being cryptic:  MEETING AGENDA1.            Call to Order2.            Consideration of Meeting Minutes for December 9, 20143.            Consideration of Recommendations of Gaming Facility Applicants for Gaming Commission Licensure4.        AdjournSo, let the licensure-ing begin!  You'll be able to watch the proceedings live via the Gaming Commission homepage; I'm sure they'll be a direct link right here somewhere come game time if it's still not there now.  And of course, Twitter will be the place to be for those of us who just have to experience the world in real time.  Unfortunately, I expect to be otherwise occupied, and I'm fine with finding out an hour later (though not much more than that!).  But I'm sure that you can get live updates here, amongst many other places.I guess I should try to squeeze in some picks, which I will endeavor to do at some point on Tuesday.  But seriously, other than my original suspicions towards those who I consider to be politically favor[...]

Is Schenectady Casino in the Bag?

Sat, 06 Dec 2014 17:00:00 +0000

Hi.  Hope everyone had a great holiday!As I'm sure you know by now, the next meeting of the location board, scheduled for December 17, is expected to produce the announcement of its recommendations as to who to license for up to four casinos in the state.  And let's emphasize again that these will be exactly that: recommendations to the Gaming Commission, which will ultimately decide whether or not to issue the licenses accordingly.  It's not an insignificant point, considering that the last two big decision processes of this sort that we've covered here over ten years of being Left at the Gate ended with a twist:  Governor Paterson himself selected AEG to get the Big A racino, but it ended up with Genting; and, an Ad Hoc Committee selected Excelsior Racing to get the racing franchise in 2006, but Governor Spitzer ultimately went back to NYRA (a longer and more complex story to be sure).In a concerted push for the Hard Rock proposal in Rensselaer, just outside of Albany at the Amtrak station, mayor Dan Dwyer and some 30 other elected officials gathered at the site on Wednesday to announce their support.What impact the announcements will have on the selection process is unknown, said McDonald, of Cohoes, and a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Neil Breslin of Bethlehem.With time running out, the group deemed it worth making the public effort within sight of the state Capitol. They brought in for support Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy of Albany and three retired state lawmakers: Republicans Roy J. McDonald, who represented Saratoga in the state Senate, and Bob Reilly of Colonie, who served in the Assembly, and Democrat Jack McEneny, who was an Albany assemblyman. [Albany Times Union] Additionally, Mayor Dwyer announced the completion of the previously-contemplated deal with Albany to pay the city $1.1 million annually from gaming revenue, and commit to job opportunities for residents.  Dwyer had previously insisted on exclusivity, which was thwarted when Albany Mayor Sheehan reached a similar, yet different, agreement with the Capital View project in East Greenbush.Rensselaer's payments will come for the city's annual $5 million to $5.7 million host community payment, while the payment for East Greenbush would be made by the casino developer. The money from Rensselaer would go to the city's general fund. The East Greenbush developer would pay Capitalize Albany, the city's economic development wing. This above-linked-to Times Union piece serves to support those loud whispers we've been hearing that Schenectady has the inside track on this thing, and portrays this as a last ditch effort to persuade the Gaming Commission that Hard Rock is the best option.  Columnist Chris Churchill, writing for the same paper, goes further, writing that the notion that this is in the bag for Schenectady is "widespread amont insiders."That suggests the deal between Albany and Rensselaer, officially announced Wednesday, could be a Hail Mary by a casino team that's desperate and realizing it's not going to win.Or maybe, just maybe, the deal is a response to a whispered message from someone in state government that sounded something like this: "Listen, we want to give this to you. But you need to bolster your local support before we can."As troubling as it would be for the integrity of the gaming commission's process, the second scenario seems as likely as the first. And that would mean Schenectady doesn't have the casino competition wrapped up after all. To me, the developers of the proposed Rivers Casino and Resort, on the shores of the Mohawk River in Schenectady, bring precisely the kind of concerns that has the potential, however slight one may believe it to be, to cause the kind of licensing issues that could lead to the type[...]

Not Getting the Memo on Cuomo

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:08:00 +0000

It seems as if not everyone has gotten the memo that the governor is not involved in the casino selection process.  Last week, it was reported that Republican Senator James Steward had written to Cuomo (copying in the location board) to advocate on behalf of Howe Caverns, referring to the casino law's intent of creating jobs and funding for schools.  “It is clear that no other site better fulfills these strict criteria, no other will another have a more profound regional impact, than the Howe Caverns Resort and Casino,” Seward wrote in the letter dated Nov. 14. “It is projected to deliver 20 percent more revenue to the Schoharie County budget, create 3,000 construction jobs and nearly 2,000 permanent positions.” [Capital New York] I've considered Howe Caverns to be an interesting longshot.  Though its revenue projections come in below that of the other three Capital District applicants, it enjoys wide community support in a region that was devastated by Hurricane Irene.  And, as Senator Steward also noted, it is located far enough from Saratoga to not pose much of a threat at all to the racino there.  Remember that the state collects a higher tax rate on the existing VLT parlors than it will on casinos, so it's certainly in the state's interest to try and prevent cannibalization there.As if that wasn't enough, Governor Cuomo received some additional reading material last week; this from two lawmakers supporting the Hard Rock casino in Rensselaer.  "We believe that opportunities for employment and tourism will extend to both sides of the river in Albany and Rensselaer Counties," the letter states. " ... Issues such as transportation, job training and employment are critical to our constituency and will be of utmost importance with regard to this project." [Albany Times Union]   And why exactly was this letter addressed to the uninvolved Governor of New York?  "At the end of the day ... the members of the (Gaming) Commission are appointed by the Legislature, yes, but also by the governor," [Assemblyman John] McDonald [of Cohoes] said in an interview. Indeed.  And the Gaming Commission, which ostensibly made the selections to the location board, happened to pick five gentleman who all have varying degrees of ties to Cuomo; two of them, in particular, held key posiitons on Cuomo's 2010 campaign team.  So, you can't blame these legislators for sending their letters the governor's way.Mentioned in the article about Rensselaer are a "flurry of rumors" regarding the Capital District license, which are apparently pointing towards Schenectady.  I recently read a quote from Rennselaer mayor Dan Dwyer to that effect.  If those rumors turn out to be true (and I can't really imagine where they'd be coming from), the license award would be going to Rush Street Gaming despite a concerted effort by the Unite HERE union to discredit the company on grounds of unfair and mean-spirited labor practices.  And there has also been bad publicity regarding the company's involvement in gaming apps marketed to kids.  (Rush Street is also involved with Saratoga harness in their Newburgh bid.)  Should the location board select this project despite those concerns, you can expect the union to keep the heat on as the Gaming Commission considers the issue of the company's licensability.We're told that the location board will indeed make their announcement at their next meeting, whenever that might be.  I'll believe that when I see it.  These guys have a lot to consider; that's an understatement to be sure.  One thing that I'll repeat here.....and perhaps there's no need, because, hopefully, the location board members have, at some point, visited all[...]

Casino Selections Hurdle Towards New Year

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:18:00 +0000

We're told that the Gaming Facility Location Board is "closing in" on their decision on where, and to whom, to recommend the issuance of up to four casino licenses; but it won't come at Friday's closed door meeting.  "We expect to be able to make a decision at our next meeting,” Kevin Law wrote to Gaming Commission Mark Gearan.  But we don't yet know exactly when that meeting will be....mid-December is the target.  However, once you get to that time of year, the holidays loom and people have the tendency to put things off until the new year.  I would not at all be shocked if that happens here.The longer this thing goes on, the more it veers off the ambitious timetable that had been set by Governor Cuomo, who had one time actually envisioned casino money starting to flow by the early months of 2015.  And the more it veers off course, the more I start to believe that maybe.....just possibly.....the outcome will not be what I've always believed to be one that was pre-ordained in the days/weeks leading up to the casino referendum vote.  That was when the New York Gaming Association flipped its stance and agreed to not oppose the referendum after flipping its stance to one of opposition.  The thinking here all along has been that then-NYGA president James Featherstonhaugh, along with Jeff Gural and, perhaps, Genting (who has had a complicated history with the governor, but who surely had the money and the means to influence the vote's outcome) would have the inside track via a closed-door deal with the governor.  That may still indeed end up being the case.  But if it does, these guys are sure doing a convincing job of going through the motions!Tom Noonan was nice enough to drop by last week and point out that with a grand jury looking into allegations that Cuomo interfered with the investigations of the Moreland Commission, the governor and his staff would have to be a clueless and arrogant fool to interfere with a competitive procurement.  Especially considering the scandal over the selection of the Aqueduct racino.  That's surely a very fair point. However, one might have thought that, with US Attorney Preet Bharara squarely focused on the matter, Cuomo would have had to have been a clueless and arrogant fool to tamper with that investigation by orchestrating a coordinated response by Moreland participants willing to say that there was no interference.  Maybe Bharara's furious reaction to that action gave the governor pause about his meddling behavior.  Still, these casinos are his baby, and it's extremely difficult to believe that he's not actively monitoring the deliberations.  And that his preferences have or will not be expressed to a board which includes people with whom he has worked closely in the past.But in any event, and no matter what Cuomo is or is not doing, the longer this thing drags on, you gotta believe that Gural and Feathers are shitting their pants.  Surely they must have felt, at the very least, entitled to a license when this process started.  But now, it all seems to be up for grabs....seemingly at least. And both of them have some serious issues with their bids.  For Gural, it's the fact that his revenue and employment projections are incremental to what his Tioga Downs racino is producing now; it's the only existing racino bidding to expand into a casino.  That was the point of the ad attacking the Tioga bid that Lago ran, even if it didn't have the facts straight.  You may recall at the oral presentation, Gural was called out on his projection of 1200 jobs, and sheepishly admitted that only 900 of those positions would be new ("we're allowed to present it like that").As [...]

Don't Expect Much From NYRA "Re-Privatization"

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:06:00 +0000

Gary Pretlow, the chairman of the Assembly Racing Committee, feels that NYRA is not "ready to go on their own" as of yet. The warnings by Pretlow and the hesitation by his Senate committee counterpart to give a green light now to any of NYRA's still-developing plans signal some potential bumps for next year's scheduled end of state oversight of NYRA.Though NYRA uses the term "re-privatization" to describe the scheduled end next fall of the state's control of its operations, Pretlow made clear he will oppose any effort that might arise to make NYRA a truly private corporation. "It remains a franchise under the state of New York and nothing else is really acceptable," Pretlow said. [Bloodhorse]I think that last point is something that was conveniently overlooked when we heard talk about re-privatization meaning a New York Racing Association that was owned and operated by Churchill Downs or Frank Stronach.  The 2008 franchise agreement runs through 2033 and quite explicitly states that the New NYRA "is the not-for profit racing corporation incorporated pursuant to Section 402 of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York."  So, it would require a lot of legislative effort, at the very least, to effect a change as drastic as NYRA becoming part of an out-of-state for-profit entity.  It's not going to happen.  I think that for all of the talk and speculation about the "re-privatization" of NYRA, it could be largely a non-event.In fact, I think this whole state takeover thing just about qualifies as a non-event itself.  The fact is that NYRA was already under state control.  The Franchise Oversight Board was established in the franchise agreement to oversee the operations, and should NYRA not satisfy a list of Performance Standards that were written vaguely enough ("NYRA shall use its best reasonable efforts to maximize attendance..") to give it wide discretion, the FOB can threaten a revocation of the franchise. It was that threat which forced NYRA to reorganize its board to Cuomo's wishes in the first place.  And though we read about how the new board is "dominated by Cuomo appointees," it consists of largely familiar faces.  Nothing really drastic has occurred here.Of course, that's not to say that things are not different than they might have been had the so-called takeover not transpired.  Surely, the old NYRA board would have gone in a different direction in choosing a new CEO, and he - or she (ha) - would have brought in a different executive team. And while they would have faced the same issues - pressure to improve the financials separate from VLT money, the general decline in national handle, the future of Aqueduct (punted by this board), safety and medication issues, and a big wad of VLT cash with which to install much needed capital improvements - a different team may very well have taken a different approach.  Perhaps it would have focused on filling the void left by NYC OTB to fill its financial coffers instead of bleeding its customers for extra cash; or declined to be as hostile to the press and as non-transparent as this regime as proven to be.  (And a half hour session with customers at 10 AM on a Sunday morning at Aqueduct doesn't really change the latter.)However, structurally and functionally as a corporation, I'd guess that things won't be all that much different when the three year period ends as it would have been if the governor hadn't been interested in staging his brief political show in reaction to the 2011-12 spate of breakdowns at Aqueduct and the takeout "scandal" which was portrayed as "robbing" bettors of millions of dollars.  The franchise agreement will remai[...]

Number of Casino Awards Going South?

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:23:00 +0000

An editorial last week in the Binghamton-based Press & Sun-Bulletin wants to know exactly how Tyre, NY - where Wilmorite is seeking to build their Lago Resort & Casino despite concerted opposition in the town - got involved in the competition for the Southern Tier license in the first place.  The rub here is that — as stupid and suspicious as it sounds — the state for casino licensing purposes has chosen to define the "Southern Tier" to include Seneca County, taking the Tier all the way north to Lake Ontario.Why? you might ask. What were they thinking?All definitions of the Southern Tier of New York state say Tier counties roughly run along the northern border of Pennsylvania. Empire State Development, the state's chief economic development agency, defines the Southern Tier as Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties.Darned if we know what went on. Indeed, here's the map of the regions, with what the Gaming Commission deems to be the "Eastern Southern Tier" shaded in pink.Tioga and Broome are in the southern portion along the PA border, enclosed in blue; while Tyre is not only in Seneca to the north, but towards the northern portion of it, off the NYS Thruway.  Tyre's inclusion for this purpose is, according to the editorial, a "gerrymandered" definition of the region.  And should Wilmorite be granted a license there, it would mean "zero employment and zero economic benefits to our area — the true Southern Tier."  Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Binghamton on Nov. 6, 2013 — the day after the casino amendment passed handily, with 57 percent of the vote, and received overwhelming support from Southern Tier counties....The governor spoke behind a podium reading: "Funding for Schools ... Jobs for the Southern Tier."We're asking the state and, specifically, Cuomo to hold true to that promise. Hmm, seems as if the governor was quite busy blowing a lot of hot air all around the state on Nov 6, 2013.  That was the same day that the governor visited Sullivan County in a similarly triumphant mode, declaring how the coming casinos would "fundamentally change the economy of the Catskills."  To those in the southern Southern Tier who agree with this editorial page's exhortation that "we need that casino," Tyre is their spoiler equivalent of Orange County.Except that I'd be a lot more worried if I was a casino proponent in the Catskills than one in Binghamton.  The Tyre casino has serious issues, from the staunch community opposition to the possible cannibalization of the Turning Stone casino, as well as of the Finger Lakes and Vernon Downs racetracks.  The project generated some bad publicity last week when it published an ad which included falsely understated projections for a casino at Tioga Downs (while, as this article points out, raising a legitimate question of exactly how much additional revenue an expanded facility there would generate.)  Besides, as we've discussed, Tyre is a little rural town that is just totally inappropriate for a casino.  I'd be pretty shocked if they get a license there.  (And only a tiny bit less so if it doesn't go to Gural.)But folks in the Catskills, already apoplectic at the prospect at a casino in Orange County, must be further rattled by the increasing speculation that the location board will recommend only three licenses, with only one going either there or somewhere in Orange County.  After New York voters approved four upstate casinos last November, four Atlantic City casinos have closed, gambling profits plunged from Connecticut to Mississippi, and new casinos opened or were greenlighted in [...]

Still Waiting...

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 23:25:00 +0000

A bit of wishful thinking?  Or some clever (and prescient) advance planning?We don't know yet.  And we won't until at least November 21.  That's all we were told after the closed door meeting of the Gaming Facility Location Board that took place in Manhattan on Monday.  And while Gaming Commission spokesperson Lee Park said that the board is "on track to make a decision this month," he added that a final decision is not guaranteed to be announced at that time.Well, even a November 21 announcement would actually be past the "early fall" target that would make this process truly "on track" with respect to the original plans.  One can surely be cynical and say that the decision was never going to happen before the election, that the board is procrastinating to make it seem that the license awards are not already pre-ordained and 'in the bag;' that they are waiting for advice and/or approval from Larry Schwartz or Regina Calcaterra from the governor's office (if not from the governor himself); or that they are merely now devising a narrative to make the decision seem as if it is really based on the merits rather than on politics and the wishes of Andrew Cuomo.Given the history of this administration, all of that, and any similar conspiracy-type theories, would be absolutely 1,000% fair to believe.However, we'd prefer to think that these gentlemen are doing their job in earnest, meticulously weeding through the thousands of pages of documents, taking into full consideration all of the comments received at the hearings and in writing, weighing what the true intent of the casino-enabling law dictates, and simply struggling to come to a fair consensus.  (Before, the cynic quite fairly would believe, they run it by the second floor for approval.)  But whatever the case, we continue to wait.The Head Chef and I were up in Ellenville, home of the once-thriving and now dormant Nevele resort, this past weekend to visit some friends.  We drove up the Palisades and Route 6 to Route 17, the road which I once traversed many times en route to a Sunday afternoon of racing at Monticello (when it was the only Sunday game around).  Post time was 2:30 PM, and many of the regular NY drivers would be on hand.  But now, it's a ragged road which still promises to become Route 86; and I'd surmise that the traffic which once clogged it on late Sunday afternoons is no longer such a problem.  On the way up 17, it was perfectly clear exactly what all the angst up in Sullivan and Ulster counties over possible casinos in Orange County is all about.  We passed right by signposts for Woodbury, South Blooming Grove, and Montgomery; all proposed casino sites.  No doubt that there's little reason to see why potential customers would want to continue on to the Nevele or the Concord; and perfectly understandable why the Catskills developers wouldn't want to build in that case (or, in the case of Empire Resorts' Adelaar/Montreign project, significantly scale back).Jimmy Feathers and Saratoga harness, however, would have you believe that their Hudson Valley Casino in Newburgh wouldn't present the same problem because it's located north of Route 17.   It will "complement, not compete," they say.  But we passed two big signposts for Newburgh as well; one when getting onto Route 17, and one where that road intersects with Route 84.  The latter intersection is, according to Google Maps, 22.6 miles and 24 minutes (without traffic) from Newburgh.  But from there to the Nevele, it's 27 miles/31 minutes.  And to the Concord (and yes, Google Maps, we know that both resorts are [...]

Yonkers to France: Sensationnel!

Wed, 12 Nov 2014 19:11:00 +0000

Quite a successful beginning to the Yonkers-France experiment on Sunday morning.  Five full-field mile and a quarter trotting races attracted European handle, through the French betting conglomerate PMU, of nearly 1.4 million Euros.  That is well above and beyond the projected 1 million Euros, and it translates to around $1.75 million USD.  As we mentioned in this post, the 13 race card on Yonkers Trot/Int'l Preview night did a little over $1.1 million.  So...sensationnel!  Not only that, I'm told that there were some transmission kinks in the first race that kept the handle down on that race, and that $2 million is a possibility for this weekend.  The results had something for everyone - couple of favorites (with nice returns for exacta-wheelers) a medium 9-1 shot, and a bomb.Domestic handle exceeded expectations too.  Horsemen were concerned about how the card would measure up against the Tuesday night session that the Sunday card replaced; but the nearly half million bucks wagered in the U.S. was, again as I'm informed by an informative source, comparable to a "bad Tuesday night."  (And that's with no triples in the first two races.) So, let's assume that the cut of the overseas handle that is due to Yonkers made it a pretty good Tuesday night on a Sunday morning/afternoon.  And, again, the big potential here is in commingled betting pools.  That's a whole new world....literally.  Not only would the track and horsemen get their direct share of the total wagering, one would have to expect that more domestic bettors would be attracted by pools with the kind of liquidity that we just don't see in harness racing (or in most thoroughbred racing outside of the major markets, for that matter).  And as far as the early post time here in order to better coincide with prime European time, maybe 11 AM on Sunday isn't such a bad time after all; especially once the football season is over.  Might be a good time for holidays as well; we've spoken in the past how NYRA and other tracks run stakes races late on days such as Memorial Day and the 4th of July, when they might very well be better off starting around 11 and finishing up by 3 or 4 so that people can go home and have their BBQs.Can't really say enough about this collaborative effort between horsemen and track management.  Here's a situation in which the racing is well-supported by VLT's, yet the parties have joined forces to work towards increasing handle in an innovative and creative way.  I'm not aware of any other similar initiative at a racetracks with slots subsidies.  With the coming of more saturation of the casinos market, and the states' inevitable clawback of slots money earmarked for racing, seems to me that other tracks would be well-advised to take a hard look at what Yonkers is doing.Another, though different, example of horsemen and track management working together has taken place at Monticello.  You may recall that we wrote earlier this year about the dispute regarding the provision in the casino law which caps VLT slots revenue to purses at 2013 levels which led to the horsemen blocking the simulcast signal.  The horsemen later discontinued their action, and the two sides got down to some good faith bargaining which resulted in an extremely creative solution.  Should Empire Resorts, the track owner, get a casino license for their Adelaar project at the Concord, it will guarantee that racing will continue at Monticello for nine years.  The horsemen will receive one million shares in the company stock ( did they manage to [...]

Four More Years

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 17:34:00 +0000

Kicked me like you kicked beforeI can't even feel the pain no more.As much as we'd like to put the lamentable events of last week's Election Day behind us, we'd be remiss if we didn't have a word about our Governor Re-Elect. Andrew Cuomo's victory was decidedly unemphatic.The Buffalo News said that Cuomo's vote total may be the lowest for the winner of a governor's race in New York since Franklin Roosevelt in 1930. [Democrat & Chronicle]His 54% share of the ballots cast by the measly turnout was eight points lower than in 2010; nine points below that of his father's re-election total.  Amazingly, Cuomo lost in 46 of the 57 counties outside of New York City; and that to a bland and vastly outspent candidate, on the defensive throughout, with cookie-cutter conservative views that are clearly out of line with the demographics of the state. It's fair to wonder just how close the race could have been with the Republicans had a more polished and credible candidate.Democrats of the more liberal persuasion, who already felt betrayed by the governor's active facilitation of the arrangement in the Senate that allowed the minority Republicans to cling to power and block passage of measures dear to their hearts, are left battered by that party's ascension to what is now an uncontested majority in the chamber. This governor, who agreed to work enthusiastically for a Democratic majority in exchange for the support of the Working Families Party, did absolutely nothing of the sort. He made exactly one personal appearance on behalf of one candidate, and was less than effusive and expansive with his words. His other "endorsements" came via statements released - over a weekend! - while he was traveling in Puerto Rico; an action so cynically half-hearted that, like Steve Berman said on that Enimem record, "It would be better if you gave me nothing at all."Now, given Cuomo's poor showing outside of NYC - including, specifically, the counties in which the three upstate candidates he "endorsed" were running - one surely can't say whether more full-throated endorsements would have turned the tide for the Democrats.  However, the governor made passage of all ten planks of the Women's Equality Act as the central theme of his campaign, even creating the Women's Equality Party in the process.  (Some felt that his emphasis on the latter party was attempted payback to the similarly-acronymed Working Families Party for cornering him as they did; but the latter attracted well more than enough votes to keep its ballot line, though it will drop a notch below the Green Party.)  Cuomo surely was well aware that the only hope of passing the Women's Equality Act in its entirety was to have the Democrats control the Senate.  But we never heard him make that exhortation on the campaign trail.  "Let me be clear - you must turn out and vote for [Democratic Senate candidate] if we want to achieve full equality for women!"We never heard anything like that.  Perhaps - just maybe (or maybe not) - that could have made a difference in SD-46, which elected Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk in 2012; or in SD-3 in Suffolk County, where Cuomo and Astorino ran neck and neck.  He broke his promise to the WFP, and by not working energetically (if much at all) towards a Democratic Senate, he was, in fact, dooming the law to failure.  To me, that renders his entire campaign - especially those feel-good ads with his girlfriend and daughters - as being insincere and hypocritical.  Instead, he can now continue to talk about "working with Democrats and Republicans," and main[...]

Times Pours (Ice) Cold Water on Catskills' Casino Dreams

Fri, 07 Nov 2014 21:38:00 +0000

Casino supporters in the Catskills may be wondering about the tone and the timing of this article in the New York Times:  Poconos Casino Offers Lesson as New York Weighs Proposals in Catskills.  It's a bleak lesson indeed being taught by the Paper of Record, and it comes now, after all these months of speculation, just days before the Location Board, presumably in the home stretch of this process, is scheduled to go into closed session on Monday to evaluate the various proposals.Seven years after opening, the Mount Airy Casino Resort has fewer than half of the hotel envisioned by developers, and a third of the slot machines promised in news releases. It has generated about half of the slot revenue forecast by Pennsylvania officials, and little economic spillover has occurred outside the resort. Expansion plans have long since been shelved. The much-heralded charitable foundation has raised a grand total of $1, federal filings show. Those funds have not been distributed...........As New York State officials prepare to announce up to four new casinos, the case of Mount Airy — once advertised as "Your host with the most in the Poconos" — offers a cautionary lesson for residents and elected leaders in another faded postwar vacationland desperate to reinvent itself: the Catskill Mountains. The Catskills were once home to 500 hotels and scores of bungalow colonies, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators have talked up gambling as a path back to prosperity........In 2006, Pennsylvania projected that the Mount Airy site would generate $269 million per year in revenue from slot machines alone. It has never come close. Slot revenue peaked in 2008 at $176 million and fell last year to $143 million. Table games were added in 2010 and total gambling revenue reached $190 million in 2012 but fell 3 percent to $183 million last year. [NYT]The article touches on all the areas of skepticism that we've touched upon in the last few months: over saturation, the self-containment of the casino which results in little benefits for surrounding businesses, increases in traffic and accidents, and the "dissonance between resort gambling and traditional family-friendly attractions." But as much as we tend to agree with those observations, and as much as we dislike casinos, this article strikes me as being exceedingly negative and one-sided...and you know that we don't particularly like when the Times does that either.  From reading this article, one would think that the only person in the entire town who is happy is some dude, a.k.a. The Goldfather, who is apparently an unlicensed pawnbroker.I mean, if the reporter really wanted to, he could have surely, and if nothing else, found at least a few people for whom the casino has provided stable employment and benefits that he/she didn't have before. And, in mentioning the Sands casino in Bethlehem as one of the competing facilities, he could have pointed out that that casino is considered by many to have actually been "successful" in helping to revitalize a depressed area (the poor gamblers on whose backs that has occurred aside).Having said that however, the point of the article is that the circumstances of the Mount Airy casino are similar to that of the Catskills - a casino with recreational and resort amenities in a once-thriving-with-tourists but now struggling rural setting - as opposed to the Sands casino, which is an urban one. But even here, this article simply does not have its facts straight. Yet each of the three proposals for Catskill casinos — in or around the borscht belt destin[...]

Peace, Love and Baccarat

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 23:47:00 +0000

It's 6 PM on Election Day.  Do you know where your casinos are? Well, no.  And no surprise there.  The members of the location board and Gaming Commission Executive Director Rob Williams talked a lot about a decision in October, but it was apparent to many of us that politics dictated that nothing would happen before this day.  Some things are just really obvious around here. A reporter for TWC News was sitting around on Oct 31 wondering about the decision that was, at one time (to some people), expected during that month, and was replied to dismissively:Spokesman Lee Park in an e-mail sent Friday noted that neither the Upstate Gaming Economic Development Act, nor the Request for Casino Applications, ever established a deadline for a decision. We know that, Spokesman Park, dude.  We know that the law doesn't specify a date or month, and we didn't say anything about October.  You did.    The board, appointed by the Gaming Commission, is not on a deadline, Park stressed. Although the goal is to make recommendations in about two weeks, that could be pushed until after the elections in November. But the board is “hoping to get it done in October,” Park added. [Daily Gazette] Less obvious of course is exactly when the announcement will take place and where the casinos will be.  But we have some ideas about the latter, as we've been saying all along, and I guess we should propose a formal prediction at some point very soon!  I think I can handicap this better than I did the Classic.Sullivan County officials have not given up on the idea of both possible Catskills/Hudson Valley casinos going there, even though they would both  be located at the Concord.  What at one time seemed like a highly improbable scenario has taken on a life of its own - it even has a slogan: 2 at the Concord.  Ok, maybe not a very catchy slogan, but it's something. Here's a radio ad funded by the county Industrial Development Agency. frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%">Everybody remembers Woodstock - can you believe it was 45 years ago? Over 500,000 people came to Bethel in Sullivan County!Hmm, yeah, I'd say that's a bit of a stretch for this purpose.  And I'd venture a guess that the prospect of three days of amazing music, free love, and good drugs (other than the bad acid, man) would outdraw a casino even in this day and age.Actually, now that I think of it, I'm surprised that none of the bidders have included that concept in their proposals!   Resorts Worldstock!  Ah, I can just see it now.... allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="300" src="//" width="380">GIMME AN S!S!GIMME AN L!L!GIMME AN O!0!GIMME A T!T!WHAT'S THAT SPELL?SLOT!(s)WHAT'S THAT SPELL?SLOT!(s)WHAT'S THAT SPELL?SLOT!(s)Yeah, come on all of you rich Asian men,Uncle Andrew needs help again.He's got himself on a spending spreeWay up yonder in AlbanyGo to Woodbury Commons, get your shopping done.We're gonna have a whole lotta fun. And it's one, two, three,What are you waiting for?Don't ask me, you're feeling hot,So go play some baccarat!And it's five, A. M.Open up the entrance gates,Well there ain't no time for a midnight snooze,Whoopee! you're all gonna lose! Well, come on mothers throughout the land,Get yourself down to Feathers' scam.Come on fathers, don't hesitate,Governor Cuomo can hardly waitFor your home to be the firs[...]

BC Classic Cheating

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:40:00 +0000

I finally got around to watching the Classic on DVR on Sunday morning without knowing the result. That effectively gave me about 13 hours of additional hope that I'd cash a ticket before sitting down to watch the three horses that I probably liked the least battle it out to the wire.  It was a thrilling three-horse stretch duel that was somewhat reminiscent of the very first Classic.  Except that one had better horses, wasn't preceded by an overwrought performance of a horrible song; and Tom Durkin's race call still brings chills all these years later. And the '84 Classic didn't feature this kind of controversy either.  Andrew Beyer, in defending the stewards' decision to let the result stand despite Bayern "[causing] interference to the horses directly to his inside" (and those are Trevor Denman's very words in his on-track explanation of the stewards' decision), writes that the stewards were right to avoid marring it with a disqualification.  But the race was equally marred by their lack of action.  This race was going to have an asterisk attached in the minds of many horseplayers and fans the moment that Bayern came out of the gate running sideways.We hear that "thousands" of horses veer in or out at the break, and that the stewards cannot become involved in all of them.  I'd agree with that.  This didn't seem like a typical case though.  We see horses bobble or veer in and out and take another horse or two with them all the time.  In this case though, Bayern and jockey Martin Garcia came out of the gate running in a straight (diagonal) line towards the rail right from the start despite no apparent misstep or mishap, and no history of having done so in the past.  We're told by Beyer that Garcia "got control of Bayern almost immediately," but I don't see it that way; not at all.  Looks to me like he kept going left even as the mayhem he was causing had to have been apparent.  [Shared Belief must be feeling like Obama nowadays; he got slammed from his right in this case (and later by Toast of New York too); got slammed from his left in the Awesome Again to get carried out wide.]The stewards noted: "in our determination, it didn't happen in the point of a race where it was reasonable to speculate that they didn't finish in a position where they were reasonably expected to finish, which is the language of the rule."  Fair enough; a rule is a rule.  "We're loathe to speculate," they noted.  Indeed, one cannot possibly guess as to whether Bayern would have been beaten had all the horses had a clear shot. But I think the more relevant question in this case is how the incident affected Bayern rather than how it affected the other horses.  It allowed him to run the race the only way he could have in order to win.  Forget Shared Belief; by taking Moreno out of the early running, he assured himself an uncontested lead.  (Of course, that's assuming that Moreno was up to running his usual race without the traffic problems, which one cannot necessarily do either.)But again, that's not the rule - the mere fact of interference, about which there can be little doubt in this case - is not grounds for a DQ in and of itself, even in a particularly obvious case such as this. Even though it clearly enhanced Bayern's chances to win.  Perhaps the national racing authority all the myriad racing jurisdictions need to take a look at the rule.  Because for a sport which is SO worried about its image in terms[...]

Breeders' Cup Saturday

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:25:00 +0000

Nice little field of ten in the Breeders' Cup Fillies & Mare Sprint, and as far as I'm concerned, we can take this and the Dirt Mile and throw the rest of the races that have been added to the BC over the last few years away. Leigh Court (4-1) has returned to the races at age four with a bang, after a layoff of 316 days; winning at this distance on the Poly at Woodbine, and then scoring in the six furlong Grade 2 TCA at Keeneland; earning sparkling TimeformUS speed figures in both cases.  (And a career best 6 on the Sheets, part of a nice looking pattern of slow and steady improvement.)  Daughter of Grand Slam has settled on sprinting as a career choice after actually enjoying some success going longer, on turf and synth, last year.  Truth be told, she benefited from a perfect trip and a smooth journey behind a fast pace in the Keeneland race (which included even money favorite Stonetastic, 8-1 ML here).  But she was very impressive visually, seeming well within herself.  Two very sharp works at Woodbine since then, and she seems ready to roll for trainer Josie Carroll, who has a TFUS Trainer Rating of 93 (out of 100) with horses going third off the layoff..........Though, to be honest, would like, and expect, to see odds higher than the morning line at post time on Leigh Court considering the presence of accomplished sprinters like Artemis Agrotera (3-1) and Judy the Beauty (5-2) in the field.  Don't have anything negative to say about either of those, except that they are unlikely to present any value. They're both fast, versatile, and accomplished at this distance.Throw out the three two-turn efforts by Sweet Reason (9-2), and this 3YO daughter of Street Sense has a record of 6-5-1-0.  She's three-for-three in one turn races this year, most recently her win at this seven furlong distance in the Test at Saratoga, in which she stumbled pretty significantly at the start. As consistent as she is though, she hasn't really progressed speed figure-wise from her two-year old season, and I don't know that the level that she's attained is fast enough in this very contentious spot; her first try against older horses.  (She paired up a career best 7 on the Sheets in her last two....that's good, yes?)   She'll also need some pace in a race that Pace Projector has favoring horses - particularly the aforementioned and very speedy Stonetastic - up front (though it's hard for me to imagine that there's not going to be a fair pace in a $1 million sprint race).  Love this filly, and can't count her out, but I think she'd be an underlay at her morning line.Thank You Marylou (20-1) ran an improved figure when adding blinkers at Churchill two tries back. Never got going from the rail in a big field at Keeneland in her last, but could liven up exotics if she can run back to the Churchill effort.  Little Alexis (15-1) is making just her fifth career start, and cuts back to a sprint after running evenly behind Untapable and Sweet Reason in the Cotillion.  Like Sweet Reason, had some trouble at the start of the Test, and only finished a length behind that one. With expected improvement... - As far as the Classic, doesn't seem to be any point trying to top the hilarious "scientific" horse-by-horse analysis by Pullthepocket.But, in any event, let's give the race a shot: I'm gonna let my East Coast bias guide me here.  Shared Belief (9-5) is undefeated and survived the horse racing equivalent of negative c[...]

Breeders' Cup Friday

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:12:00 +0000

In the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, I'd love to try and beat Goldencents (6-5), but getting the same feeling as I do when I'm trying to figure out how the Democrats are gonna keep the Senate.  He won this race last year using the same three stepping stone races to get here; so he looks like a tough incumbent to unseat.  4yo son of Into Mischief is simply faster than these based on his TimeformUS figs, and he's two-for-two at a mile on this track.  He benefited from that nutty speed bias on BC Friday last year; don't know if that will be the case this year, but I imagine that tactical speed surely won't hurt.  But there are a couple of horses listed at 6-1 ML who I think will run well:  Pants On Fire (6-1) has been sharp during his 6YO season, if not quite as fast on TFUS figures as in the past.  Could be ready to move forward though off a dominant win in a Charles Town stake in which he was wrapped up through the final sixteenth.  That was his 4th race in a compressed period of 55 days, and came after a tough loss at Belmont in which he stalked an insanely fast pace and held on grimly for second to Golden Ticket (15-1 here); that on a track that TimeformUS has rated as favoring closers.  Interesting to note that his CT win, slow-ish on TFUS, came back as a 1 on the Sheets; that's the best last-out Ragozin number, including the favorite.  It was a big jump that I suppose invites thoughts of a bounce.  But he won easily, as mentioned, and has a 41 day break and a bullet half work in between.Throw out the Derby, and Tapiture (6-1) has quite a pattern of improvement going on.Still needs further progress to compete with the favorite; but this 3YO son of Tapit is making just his 12th career start, so he's eligible for continued improvement.  Since the Derby, Tapiture has an easy win at Churchill, a gritty victory in the W. Virginia Derby in which he zigged mid-stretch to find room, and a no-shot second to Bayern in the PA Derby.  Tough task facing older for the first time, and from an outside post, but expecting a good effort here.Fed Biz (7-2) comes off his ground-saving (but nonetheless game) second to Shared Belief, earning a 115 TFUS figure that surely puts him in play.  I'd like to ignore him and throw him out in favor of the abovementioned pair.  Turns out that, in Sheets-land, he's not all that fast on dirt.  When one set of numbers doesn't support what one wants to see, turn to another set that will.  That's what I always say. - The Breeders' Cup Distaff sets up like a harness handicap race with the two best horses, Untapable (5-2) and Close Hatches (3-1), assigned to the outside posts.  I think they're both toast.  Untapable has been good but hardly great since her Kentucky Oaks win.  The bubble burst when she tried the boys in the Haskell; and her Cotillion win was not all that convincing, coming with the benefit of a perfect trip as it did.  Her TFUS figures have declined with each effort since the Oaks, and I'm just not feeling a big turnaround here.  Close Hatches wired the muddy Personal Ensign, earning giant pace figures along the way, and then was dueled into submission in the Spinster at Keeneland by the 1st-time blinkered Ria Antonia (15-1).  The change of tactics served the latter well, as she held for second.  Don't see why we'd see anything different here, and with $2 million on the line, we might see s[...]

NYRA Looks Ahead, and NOT Back

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:14:00 +0000

NYRA is either REALLY excited about Aqueduct opening.  Or, they REALLY don't want you to think about the Belmont fall meet just concluded.  Twice in the last two days, I've received press releases in my inbox about the opening of the Big A, and the $14 million in recent capital investment by the New York Racing Association designed to further enhance the guest experience and improve the quality of racing.  (That expenditure comes out of the 4% of VLT revenues that are specifically earmarked for maintaining and upgrading the tracks....some $21.5 million for the first eight months of 2014; $31.5 million in 2013.)  Tuesday's email was a MEDIA ADVISORY, a notation that is normally reserved for announcing board meetings or significant news developments.As for Belmont?  No sign of the usual end-of-meet release that details attendance and handle figures, along with the comparisons to the prior relevant meeting.  Now, perhaps I'm wrong, as these press releases are not something that I go out of my way to save.....and the search engine for press releases on the NYRA site is lacking, at best.  But I recall that such announcements always and immediately follow the end of a race meet, whether the news is good or bad.  Here's a negative report from the fall meeting of 2009.  And here's a really bad one from the 2010 Saratoga meeting that was spun to highlight the good parts.But NYRA apparently, at least as of this writing, is not even trying to spin this Belmont meet.  They've just ignored it, thus far.  It's Breeders' Cup week, so Grening is otherwise occupied, and not around to ask them what's up.  And even if I'm wrong, and past NYRA regimes have ignored unfavorable results, I thought this is supposed to be the new "transparent" NYRA?  Seems to me that they're about as transparent as the Rock of Gibraltar.Well, at least in today's press release, as opposed to the one on Monday, the Longshots simulcast facility at Aqueduct is discussed.  Don't know if that was just an oversight.  In any event, what we're not told is that NYRA raised the admission price by $5 since the last time we were at the Big A, to $10/$5 for non-NYRA Rewards members/members.And perhaps you were considering spending your Breeders' Cup day at Longshots?  That'll cost you $40 if you're not a NYRA Rewards member.....$20 if you are.  NYRA continues to try and achieve the so-called "profitability without slots" by nickel-and-diming its customers.  Though I guess $40 to get into Longshots goes well beyond that characterization.  I'll be interested to see if maybe they've gone a little too far in this case.  But I won't be there to see for myself.Having said that, it's good - and rather surprising - to see that NYRA is making an effort to upgrade a track that it probably intends to close at some point in the next few years.  I'd noted some of the improvements that I saw in progress when I was there over the summer.  In addition, according to the release, there are new video boards in the infield, new TVs throughout the plant, and that "airport style" seating to replace "more than 450 bucket seats at Aqueduct, many of which dated back more than 50 years."  I might miss those, some of them have my name on it.  Also, and curiously in my opinion, improvements to the infield, with a new fountain, sod, and shrubs, to "improve the extern[...]

High Hopes for Yonkers Races for French Audience

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:39:00 +0000

The Head Chef and I were at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night, and many, many thanks to the Standardbred Owners Association of New York for graciously hosting us.  Had a great time, a nice meal (yes, the Head Chef approved), and met a lot of really nice folks, including SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo, who, I learned, is actually NOT the Joe Faraldo who I used to see drive at Roosevelt and Yonkers!  That was his cousin.  I never knew that, and apparently, neither does/did a lot of other people.  I'll put that in the "you learn something new every day" category.I have been to the Yonk a few times since its transformation to the Empire City Casino, but this was easily the biggest racing crowd I've seen there.  It was a "big night," with several stakes for 3YOs, including the prestigious Yonkers Trot and Messenger Stakes.  The card was highlighted by the $250,000 International Trot Preview, a precursor for the return of the International Trot next year.  As you may know, the International was run for many years at Roosevelt (1959-88), and routinely drew crowds of 40-50,000 plus before the OTB era began.  It was moved to Yonkers for a few years when the Big Wheel closed, but hasn't been conducted since 1995.But the Trot Preview had a more immediate purpose, as a lead-in for a series of six Sunday morning/afternoon cards (1st post 11AM) to be run at Yonkers, starting on Nov 9, with the express purpose of having five races simulcast to France, where bettors will wager on the races through PMU, the French wagering authority.  The series is a result of an initiative by SOA of NY to drive handle....and not their first foray overseas; they have been successfully exporting signals to Australia and New Zealand, creating some $150-$250K in additional handle per card for the track.  The horsemen and track management do not always see eye-to-eye, but this is a cooperative effort between them, along with the Gaming Commission.  In fact, Yonkers President Tim Rooney Sr. accompanied Faraldo and SOA-NY Executive Director Alex Dadoyan to Paris to sign the agreement.  Though the pools will not be commingled, Yonkers will get a percentage of the overseas action.  And that action is expected to be rather substantial.  “They have the second largest pari-mutuel pool in the world behind Japan,” Dadoyan told DRF Harness' Jay Bergman over the summer.  Indeed, Dadoyan, who worked with PMU on Hambletonian simulcasts when he worked at the Meadowlands, was informed by his French counterparts that they are expecting total handle for the five races to be around one million Euros.  That comes to some 250,000 US dollars a race on average with today's exchange rate.  That's a pretty staggering sum, considering that on Saturday night, the horsemen were thrilled to see the total handle on the card exceed $1 million ($1,105,936,  for an average of around $85,000 per race).So man, they sure do like their harness racing in France!  (And in the countries to which PMU transmits the signal as well, which includes Germany and Austria.)  I'd think that U.S. harness racing is a better fit for European customers than our thoroughbred racing given the different surfaces and culture of the latter sport here.  And it helps that, unlike here, PMU only takes two racecards at a time.  In order to make the races bett[...]