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CNN's John King: Is he really a Sen. Harry Reid look-alike?

Nov 11, 2008 5:04 PM

Burnt Offerings by Stan Bergstein |

A final quick look at the gaming body politic, but before that, I must clear my laptop of the 38 pleas from ladies I do not know, all worried about me getting my love back, becoming a man again, enjoying pleasures lost.

These women, with improbable names like April Seymour, Wanda Simms, and Pradesh Hamarandum, work for online drugstores, the new scourge of the Internet. They all assure me they have potions and notions and lotions that can restore me to full manhood overnight, sell me Viagra at unheard of low prices, get prescriptions filled in a flash, and turn me into the man I once was, painlessly and effortlessly, at the click of a computer key.

Someone has been talking. I do not know any of these women, or how they found out about my decrepit condition and got my email address.

Having deleted all of them, on to the gaming election news.

I saw once handsome John King on CNN last night, and he looked like Harry Reid.

The network has packed his huge electronic colored map toy away for four years, and King is turning into a gnarled, faded image of himself, a latter day Dorian Gray. After a year of sliding counties back and forth, drawing magic pretty green slanting lines showing wedges of red and blue voting blocs, and showing off by talking so fast no one could understand him, he now has to return to talking endlessly without his game box. He is a shell of his former self, is in withdrawal, and may not make it until Sarah Palin returns from the wilds of Alaska and lets him and Wolf Blitzer drone on and on, pretending they know more than you or I.

Without either of them, a quick look at what happened last week.

Marylanders voted for slots. They could have done nothing else, squeezed as they were by the python of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia, where they were sending their money in endless streams to gamble.

Soon they will be able to pour it into 15,000 native slots, at five politically selected locations within their borders.

This is fine for Maryland, but not for little Delaware, which has been leeching off them in recent years with glitzy racinos at its three racetracks.

The answer is simple. Within months, Delaware will pull out and dust off its grandfathered right to conduct sports betting. It is one of only four states in the nation that can do that – Nevada, of course, is one of the four – and pressures have been building in the Delaware legislature to pass a sports betting bill over the objections of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Even before that happens, members of New Jersey’s legislature have been lobbying to get the federal law changed to allow other states to bet on sports. Their chances are slim. It was a New Jersey senator, former Princeton and New York Knicks basketball star Bill Bradley, who got the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act passed in 1992. That act still holds, tight except for the four grandfathered states, prohibiting betting on competitive sports.

Elsewhere last week, Massachusetts voters took the drastic action of banning dog racing. The state has had two of greyhound racing’s major tracks – Raynham and Wonderland – and they did landslide business in the 1990s. They have been in constant decline since, and have battled anti-dog racing forces for years, always beating them off, until now. With the public finally turning against them, they will be out of business after the 2009 season.

Finally, a local election of interest in the town of Scarborough in Maine. The town has a harness track – Scarborough Downs – now owned by a pretty lady named Sharon Terry, who inherited it when her bosom buddy, the volcanic Joe Ricci, died suddenly of a heart attack after a failed gubernatorial run.

Ricci made his money with tough schools for young addicts in the drug-sodden 70s. Hugely controversial, he was the subject of a book written by one of his former lady friends, titled Duck In A Raincoat. If you can find a copy it is recommended reading.

Ms. Terry’s track has been buffeted by hard times, and she decided to try for slots. She promised Scarborough new roads, $8 million a year or so in new revenues, and other goodies – pretty enticing for a small New England town – but a body of determined anti-slots foes organized a counter charge … and beat her in a tight election.

Sharon has a unique solution. She is talking about picking up her marbles – in this case a racetrack – and moving it to a town more hospitable to slots.

Never a dull moment in this game.

Horse sales jolted by tough economy

The expected crash in the horse sales market has arrived, full force, for both harness horses and thoroughbreds.

The three-day yearling portion of the huge Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, ended last week with 1,046 yearlings bringing $32,720,200 against $42,765,500 for 1,094 yearlings a year ago, a 23.5% decline.

The yearlings averaged $29,909 this year against $40,885 last year, a 26.9% decline.

The leaders were Muscle Massive, a Muscles Yankee trotting colt that brought $425,000; Ganache, a Credit Winner trotting colt that sold for $350,000; Catechism Hanover, a Rocknroll Hanover pacing filly that brought $260,000, and Noorrir, an Andover Hall trotting colt that went for $235,000.

The malaise hit far harder in thoroughbred racing, where the giant Keeneland fall sale was held. During the first days, 523 horses brought $114,725,000, down 48.1% from a year ago.

The average, $219,359, represented a 26.7 decline and the median was down 34.2%, according to Daily Racing Form figures.