Sport of Kings poised for regal return to glory

Jan 29, 2002 9:37 AM

DON’T COUNT OUT HORSE RACING! The report of horse racing’s demise may be premature. That’s the word from Wall Street analyst Marc Falcone (Bear Stearns & Co.), who expects telephone account wagering to send pari-mutuel betting through the roof over the upcoming two years.

“The room for growth is staggering,” Falcone said, adding that the demand for gaming revenue will increase as state legislatures face budget shortfalls.

Falcone said account wagering on horses accounts for only 5 percent of the $18 billion pari-mutuel wagering industry. But the number will increase dramatically when California tracks are thrown open to phone and closed-loop online betting. That should happen this spring.

Also helping the Sport of Kings is the advent of slot machines at racetracks. New York has approved slots at its tracks, and Kentucky is poised to do the same.

CLOSE THAT BACK DOOR! “You could have heard them shouting as time was running out on the Rams—Eagles game last Sunday,” reported a sports book pipe.

“It all started late last week when one of the area’s best known bettors began sending money in on the game to go under. The over-under number was at 51½, but as the money came in, it slid to 50, then 49 and finally closed at 48.

“Not all the money came from one player but when word spread that he was laying it on the under, more people joined in.

“Of course, everything was on schedule until Philadelphia came in through the backdoor in the waning minutes of the game and scored a touchdown making the final score 29-24.”

ROLLING CRAPS IN COURT: Crapping out in court, Binion’s Horseshoe was ordered on Monday to fork over $1.9 million to the Fremont Street Experience. Clark County District Judge Gene Porter approved the asset seizure as security for unpaid membership fees to the Downtown cooperative. Porter delayed enforcement of his order for 14 days to give Binion’s the chance to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Last week, the club and owner Becky Behnen were sued by 12 managers and coordinators for the World Series of Poker over allegations that $540,000 in tips were improperly distributed.

FINAL FIVE WAITING FOR LUCKY DRAGON: The final five candidates for one of three gaming licenses in Macao have until Thursday to reshuffle their bids and sharpen their competitive edge.

“This is how it works,” said a source in Hong Kong. “The government will allow one or more bidders to combine forces in order to get a competitive advantage.”

Since only three of the five finalists will receive licenses, two will be out of luck.

“Sometimes, half an egg roll is better than none at all,” the source said.

The final five candidates include Larry Woolf’s Navegante company, Steve Wynn, Stanley Ho, MGM Mirage and a venture between Park Place and Mandalay Resorts.           

AFTER CHINESE NEW YEAR’S PLANS: Look for at least one major Strip resort to reduce casino staff after the Chinese New Year’s celebration on Feb. 12.

So says a reliable in-the-knowster when I met up with him over the weekend.

“The effects of 9/11 may be more damaging than originally thought,” said the source who asked not to be identified.

“The silver carpet is laced with velvet and the top-shelf champagnes will flow like water, but when the last firecracker and dragon is out of sight, it will be back to business as usual, make that read, tighter than usual, the source added.

SLOTS COMPETITION GROWING: It isn’t bad enough that Atlantic City will be facing additional competition for slots players when Aqueduct and Yonkers Raceway install slot machines later this year, but now they are hearing noises from Meadowlands and Monmouth in New Jersey.

The two Jersey tracks say that if slots business at New York tracks generates enough money to pull horses away from them they will need to add slots in order to maintain their level of quality.

That maneuver would require both the approval of the legislature as well as a constitutional amendment.

And, with the lobbying strength of AC properties, few believe that will ever happen.

DIAMOND SPARKLES AGAIN: “Everybody in town was abuzz on Monday when Sid Diamond announced the lines for this year’s Super Bowl,” remarked our rosebud.

“Would you believe, he offered a nickel (-105) line when everyone in town traditionally books at 11-10?” she asked

“Since Diamond took over the sports book at the Regent at Summerlin (Marriott), he’s been enticing the betting gentry with good betting propositions. But, people who know him are aware that he has always been one of Vegas’ top bookmakers.

“Well, for Sunday’s Super Bowl, he offered minus 14 on the Rams and plus 15 on the Patriots, both at minus 105. He then posted the over-under number at 55.

“Speaking to a friend of mine, Diamond said, ”˜No need to worry, I can always collect Social Security,’” our rosebud reported.

A DIFFERENT BASEBALL BOND: They’re talking “bonds” in Minnesota but they’re not referring to baseball giant Barry Bonds. No, they are talking revenue bonds the kind that can be used to build ballparks and stadiums.

Pressure has been applied on Minnesota politicians to find a way to build a $300 million ballpark to house the Twins, if the Twins are to remain alive. In short order, an advisory task force will come up with recommendations that just may include suggesting that revenue bonds be issued to build a Twins home.

In fact, some people are even suggesting the movement could be extended to build a $500 million stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

They no longer call it “public financing.” It’s now called, “public funding.”