While the eyes of the horse racing world are on the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 4 and 5 at Churchill Downs, the most important long-term event will take place Oct. 28 at Aqueduct.
That is when the first phase of a new casino at Aqueduct — Resorts World Casino New York City — will open to the public.
In Las Vegas, we might call this a soft opening. But when $20 bills start sliding into nearly 2,500 video lottery terminals, the results will be the same.
The impact will be immediate on New York racing. The first Aqueduct condition book will be written for $375,000 in daily average purses. By the spring meet at Belmont Park, the purse structure will look like Keeneland, or better. Every day.
Many years ago I wrote that if the California horse racing industry did not get its act together, it would have its head handed to it by the New York Racing Association. Well, that day has come.
California is not alone in getting left in the dust. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie should have seen this day coming. Christie should have allowed a competing casino, run by a partnership of Atlantic City casinos, to be built at the Meadowlands.
Part of the profits could have gone to the horse racing industry, with the rest to the state and casino owners to minimize the damage they will surely feel.
Unfortunately, politics has a way of fogging up common sense. Christie has forsaken racing and put all his eggs into resurrecting Atlantic City. That move is bound to backfire, and badly.
Ironically, a Las Vegas company, MGM Resorts International under the leadership of the late Terry Lanni, was originally contracted in 2003 to build the casino at Aqueduct. Instead, Genting Group, based in Malaysia, got the plum contract.
The nearest casino to Aqueduct is at Yonkers Raceway. The New York City metropolitan area can handle a second major casino. However, the ripple effect will spread out to Atlantic City, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The competition for the gambling dollar is getting fiercer by the minute.
The future looks bright for the NYRA. A planned $100 million upgrade to Saratoga now will have funding. The Breeders’ Cup will surely return to New York as fast as you can say slot machine. And if you need stall space, you better have a friend in the NYRA racing office.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.