Live racing on cable plan opposed

Aug 26, 2003 7:42 AM

More than two decades ago, Chuck Di Rocco, publisher of this newspaper, envisioned a way for Las Vegas racebooks to increase business: television. At the time, all racebooks used a broadcast recreated version of each race to advise horse bettors about the progress and results of races from America’s racetracks.

Using his racing background contacts, Di Rocco invited casino operators, racetrack executives and gaming regulators to the Union Plaza where he staged the first full-card racing simulcast program in the U.S.

The rest is history. Not only did simulcasting become the norm in Nevada, but it became the savior of modern day horseracing since every racetrack in America has now become a simulcasting center with off-track wagering swamping the on-track betting.

So it’s not surprising that Autotote Enterprises Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Scientific Games Corporation (SGMS), wants to expand their business in Connecticut by establishing a cable access television channel to show horse racing that would be available to the homes of the state’s residents. The company already has a phone-a-bet system in place.

"All we are doing is putting racing on TV," said John Ponzio, the Autotote president.

But that was enough to bring out all the anti-gambling heavy hitters. One politico called it a "harebrained idea" that would expand the state’s addictive gambling problem. He also saw it as competition to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun "that brings in revenues to Connecticut."

Opponents said they would ask the attorney general to determine the legality of the racing network.