California should try track-casino marriage

Despite the economic downturn in the U.S. casino business, the horse racing industry continues reaching out to it as a life preserver.

The common synergies are undeniable. If the citizenry doesn’t want a casino anywhere near them, then put the slot machines at a racetrack, which already offers legal gambling, creating what is called a racino.

The latest marriage between racetrack and casino could occur in New York between Belmont Park and the Shinnecock Indians on Long Island. It bears watching because the scenario is something I’ve been suggesting for California racing to do for the past five years or so.

The Shinnecocks are nearly a cinch to receive federal recognition as an Indian tribe, thus allowing it to purse a casino license. Their reservation is in Southhampton, which is one of the wealthiest communities in the country.

There is no chance they’ll be allowed to build a casino anywhere near Southhampton. However, within 75 miles of the reservation is Belmont Park, a site so perfect for expanded gaming that even New York politicians might not be able to spoil it. If the two parties and the state can see eye to eye, this could move quickly toward creating jobs and much-needed revenue.

Where this example fits in California is that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has approved thousands of additional slot machines for Indian casinos. They have yet to act on it partly because the tribes would like to expand into more populous areas. That’s where the racetracks would come in.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Visualize the tribes, the racetracks and the governor working together and putting the extra slots at the racetracks for the benefit of all. That sharing the new revenue three ways is a lot better than fighting amongst one another to get 100 percent of nothing.

Naysayers will say it can’t be done. The fact is all three parties are hemorrhaging, facing declining revenues and huge deficits.

Shouldn’t that be enough to force action?

FUTURE BETS — A unique stocking stuffer for racing fans is a Kentucky Derby future book bet. The Derby future wager is available at the Las Vegas Hilton, Lucky’s and Wynn Las Vegas.

CHARITY DRIVE — The annual Daily Racing Form-Shade Tree charity drive will continue through Tuesday. Shade Tree shelters battered women and children from domestic violence. A list of needed items is posted on www.theshadetree.org Web site. Donations can be dropped off at the DRF office at 6000 S. Eastern Ave.

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

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