Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vernon, Tioga Close. NJ to get Help

Jeff Gural, Chairman of American Racing and owner of Vernon Downs and Toiga Downs in New York, has decided to close up shop.

He will shut down the tracks after an Assembly panel this week rejected a plan to increase revenue to the ailing harness tracks.

"I should have closed long ago," Gural said. He has said the tracks lose about $1 million a month.

Low handles and decreases in slot/vlt revenue are the culprit.

In other news, New Jersey is apparently getting their band-aid this week, maybe next.

The SBOA of New Jersey announced in a release this afternoon that an agreement to supplement purse money for the racetracks in New Jersey is close to completion.
"We've been told by a high ranking Corzine Administration official that they are very close to finalizing a supplement agreement,"

I can not get fired up about these things and toe the company line. I just can’t. For goodness sakes it appears we are not only looking for a subsidy in racing, we are now looking to subsidize slots. We are soon to be subsidizing subsidies!

Let me be clear, I do not harbour ill-will or dislike what Gural or the SBOA are doing. If I was in their position I would do the same thing. It’s not their fault, it is the business’ fault for not looking toward the future.

I could get behind a subsidy, if and only if I heard something like this from all parties looking for one: “We need this subsidy because we need to improve our product and its distribution. With the proceeds we are going to create a new betting platform and export it all over the World, we are going to study how we can get our product on betfair and with European bookmakers to expand our markets, we are going to have a competitive rewards system so our customers will benefit and tell friends, we are going to use this money to market and brand and better our product, we are going to spend money finding out what customers want and what we can do about improving harness racing, and with this money we will make harness racing a force for the 21st century and beyond.”

I simply can not support the status quo. It’s more of the same and it clearly has not worked. "If at first you don't succeed, do the same thing over again" is not a policy, it is a delusion.

Note: I have a new post on this issue up, "Gural on the Edge", with reference to his interview at The Harness Edge, which is posted on their website.


Anonymous said...

I disagree.

Tioga Downs is not looking for a subsidy; they want the NY tax rate to reflect their cost of doing business.

Today they are taxed beyond their (reasonable) expenses.

Apparently, the NY Legislature would rather have 100% of nothing than X% of something.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi TD,

Don't get me wrong, I know the semantics of, as Gural puts it "lottery economics" are prohibitive to him there. My post is more broad in nature. That is, if we had more racing fans rather than gaming fans we might not be having these problems. Since we put so much money into purses and that has not made new fans, it seems like (broadly) the overall direction and policy is flawed.

I just can't see a tax break, or a bigger slice of the pie making things better for the overall game. For Vernon yes, for the game, no.

Anyhow, I am going to follow up the post in a bit. I am just listening to the Gural interview on the harness edge podcast. He has some interesting things to say.

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