Instructor: Michael Moore
The Necessity of Slot Machines at Racetracks
The vast majority of states in the United States all have at least one racetrack. However, there is one very big difference between the successful and non-successful facilities; slot machines. (Timmons 76) The role of having slot machines inside the racetrack is the ingredient for success. Some of the largest racetracks are beginning to fail because of economic times and not having slot machines. Every racetrack is struggling, but having slot machines balances out the deficit which is causing many facilities to go under. Little states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania are becoming growing destinations for horsemen. On the other hand, the largest racing states such as New York and California are going out of business. Why is this so? Not having slot machines to make income. Thus, passing a law to obtain the legal rights of slot machines is far more difficult than many are aware of. The life of the racing industry is in the hands of nationwide state legislatures in ordinance of passing the one law the industry has ever asked for; slot machines.
Many horsemen and backside workers livelihood are at stake if slot machines are not passed. With slot machines not being legal in a large majority of the state’s nationwide, racetracks have to shut down due to a shortage of funds. States such as New York were threatening to shut down if they do not receive money, which the slot machines could make up for. Bill Finley stated “the struggling New York Racing Association informed its employees late Thursday that it will cease operating June 9 if it does not receive an infusion of cash from the state in the way of a loan.” If the racetrack shut down a very large amount of workers would lose their job. Letters were already made out, “the notices, sent to some 1,400 employees, are requirements of the Federal and New York State Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Acts.” Slot machines take in over 150 million dollars on average a year. This, however, is much more complex than just 150 million dollars more of revenue per year. The 150 million that racetracks are profiting from slot machines is going towards raising the purse structure of the racetrack, which is luring many horsemen to stable their horses at the racetrack. Wherever the horsemen can make the most money they bring their horses, it is common sense. But, this leaves a larger issue for tracks not having slot machines because even though their purse structure is still the same, other tracks are racing for a lot more money.
That causes the horsemen to remove their stables from these racetracks, which makes the average horses per race lessen. With less horses running per race, the general public, besides visitors and tourists, choose to gamble their money at racetracks that attract large fields with big purses. It is an extremely harsh chain effect as the most prominent racetracks can crumble in the blink of an eye if they do not receive legal rights for slot machines. Who though has a problem with slot machines being allowed at racetracks?
This is actually a very complex landscape due to the large amount of stockholders invested in racetracks. The main objectors towards slot machines involve state legislatures who already have casinos or gambling rights in their county. It is very evident that they would not want to vote for slot machines as it would cause their county to lose revenue and increase taxes. Winning the vote of those specific legislatures is near impossible unless the state supreme court intervenes on the behalf of the general public. Another way to pass legislation is by the state having to approve slot machines because it is in such deficit the funds are necessary. Charles Bagli, a writer for the New York Times, stated “a crucial factor in the deal was Genting’s promise to pay a $380 million licensing fee upfront, giving the state money that it desperately needs.” The desperate need for money ended the 10 year dispute as it quote “after nearly a decade of false starts, squabbling and investigations, Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have approved a deal to bring casino gambling to New York City.” Thus, that was a blessing in disguise that would have not happened anytime in the near future if New York was financially stable.
Having slot machines at racing facilities would also greatly increase the lives of the horsemen and backside workers. With larger purses to run for, the trainers, jockeys, grooms, and other backstretch workers would be able to get paid more. The trainers and jockeys making a greater income would not be extremely life-changing, however the backstretch workers and grooms are working for minimum wage. Having larger purses would give them a greater income. The trainers would give them better wages, the owners would tip them more, and the racetrack would be required to pay them a higher wage. That would acknowledge that they too, even though they are working at the bottom of the barrel, have human dignity and are being valued as individuals. The benefits for the horsemen would be endless as it would create a chain reaction of benevolence that otherwise would remain shallow.
Also, the citizens of the county would benefit from having slot machines as their taxes would decrease marginally and would raise property values. In the current financial market living near a gambling facility, especially slot machines, increases property values significantly. With unemployment being so high, many citizens would have the opportunity to become employed as a significant number of jobs would be created. Once again, having a casino would benefit the citizens of the county in all areas.
The state legislatures who already encompass casinos in their counties are the black sheep of the matter. Convincing those politicians is near impossible as there are no perks that can possibly come out of this bill. They always vote in favor of the “citizens of their county” as they see the legality of casinos in another county besides their own as a financial burden. Their casino would lose a substantial number of business in their minds as the people who are commuting from a distance to get to their enterprise would no longer have to drive so far. Being allowed to have a vote in this bill is the biggest falsity as there is literally no way to persuade these politicians to vote in favor. Even though their counties property tax may raise a couple bucks, thousands of jobs would be created. Yet, they refuse to vote for the bill in fear of not being reelected. This is where the vicious circle of this bill begins as winning the confidence of these politicians is 1/100 as they refute the option of benefiting any other county but their own. Some would say that it is an act of greed and malice being they already have a casino, but with the way the current legislation is set up it is very difficult to bypass their vote.
Reflecting on the pros and cons, it is clearly evident that the cons are slim to none, while the pros have an endless list. With the economy being in such poor condition it only seems to make sense to benefit the greater good, even though it is in the matter of gambling. Few would argue ethical objections towards the passing of this bill as the ends would be much greater than the means. People would be gambling regardless of where the facility is and regardless of the economic times. Others would continue to just go out to have a fun evening. The difficult role in all of this rubbish is bypassing the state legislation to improve the lives of many, but what does it take to go around the murky waters (legislators)? Thousands of jobs, an increase in the lives of thousands of currently employed workers, a decrease in county taxes, an increase in property values, and the human dignity of all being met seems to be a great tradeoff for keeping the racing industry alive.
Bagli, Charles V. “Aqueduct Slot Deal May Give New York a Casino.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 12 Aug. 2010. Web. 11 Oct. 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/13/nyregion/13aqueduct.html?_r=1&ref=horse_racing>.
Finley, Bill. “Without Loan, NYRA Warns Employees Of a Shutdown.” The New York Times. 21 May 2010. Web. 11 Oct. 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/sports/22racing.html?ref=horse_racing>.
Timmons, Heather. “CAN SLOT MACHINES RESCUE RACING?.” BusinessWeek 3810 (2002): 76-77. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.