Racing industry can’t bear subsidy cut

There is a growing political sentiment, right or wrong, that state-mandated casino subsidies to the horse racing industry should be stopped. Or at least reduced.

Horse racing in these states must feel like a scorned woman cast aside for a younger, more attractive trophy wife.

This outcome was predictable with most states having revenue shortfalls. Most refuse to cut expenses, unless it’s in entitlement programs for the needy. They would rather raise taxes or, in the case of horse racing, take away money that had been legislated accordingly.

It is convenient to forget why slot machines and horse racing are so intertwined in the first place. In many states, the horse racing industry did the dirty work in getting legislation passed to allow casino gambling. It deserved a share of the proceeds because horse racing was giving up its legal gambling monopoly.

Second, since there was already legal pari-mutuel gambling, adding casino games at a racetrack was no stretch. If you weren’t going to build a destination casino, with a hotel, restaurants and shopping, a racetrack was a good place to put slot machines.

Third, there was the NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) factor. While residents liked the idea of a voluntary tax such as casino gambling, they did not want a casino in their neighborhood. You see this in public referendums near and far.

Bottom line, if the horse industry in these states loses its subsidy or sees it reduced, it will be a fiscal punch in the solar plexus.

The last time I looked, subsidies is not a dirty word in government. For example, the federal government pays almost $30 billion in farm subsidies a year.

The horse industry has an economic impact similar to viewing an iceberg. All the public sees is the tip, meaning the racehorses at the racetrack.

In reality, there are so many supporting industries below the surface that a loss of subsidy would have a devastating economic impact nationally.

■ ECLIPSE AWARDS — The Eclipse Awards will be televised live from Gulfstream Park at 5 p.m. Saturday on HRTV. Jeannine Edwards of ESPN will host.

■ ’HORSEPLAYERS’ — A new series, “Horseplayers,” will debut Jan. 21 on the Esquire Network.

“Horseplayers” will follow a group of handicappers headed by past National Handicapping Championship winners Michael Beychok (2012) and John Conte (2009). The backdrop will be them competing in big-money handicapping tournaments from coast to coast.

If reality shows such as “Baggage Battles” and “Storage Wars” can develop a following, why can’t “Horseplayers”? Picking winners has to be as interesting as eyeballing a piece of luggage or a storage bin.

■ TREASURE ISLAND — Five seats will be up for grabs Thursday in an NHC Last Chance Qualifier at Treasure Island. It’s the final opportunity to qualify for the DRF/NTRA NHC from Jan. 24 to 26 at Treasure Island.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.