Slots to rescue Jersey tracks?

Jun 16, 2009 5:03 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

Will slot machines make a difference? The headline in a recent issue of the Press of Atlantic City asks whether putting the games at New Jersey tracks can help the racing business survive?

Answer: Probably not, but since the issue appears destined to be settled by elected lawmakers and the special interests plugged into one side or another there’s no telling about the outcome.

The question says a lot about the way some well-intentioned people continue to think in gibberish. Why should racing survive if it does not give people satisfying value? The matter is under review in New Jersey by a commission that has a year to review the pros and cons of casino subsidies for racing.

It’s like the early auto industry being required to subsidize the horse and buggy business; people being told they can buy a car but only if they agree to also own a buggy.

Atlantic City casinos are currently subsidizing the tracks, giving them millions annually that guarantees they will not seek slots for at least the next two years.

Interestingly, Florida lawmakers have tackled this issue by effectively cutting the throat of the racing industry and giving the Seminoles approval to run full-fledged card rooms while most of Florida’s pari-mutuel facilities are limited to expanding their card rooms.

It’s an agreement that suggests Florida officials have no idea how big an advantage they have handed the Seminoles as tracks are left to starve.

Two states with two very different approaches … we’ll see how it plays out.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Phil Hevener