For all the experts who told me that casino gaming was “recession proof,” I have two words for you: You’re wrong.
Many casino companies are reducing expenses, including cutbacks in promotion and marketing.
In reality, during a down cycle, they should be promoting even more.
That’s why I commend the many race book operators in town who proactively are marketing horse racing contests. When the economy improves — and it will — they will reap the benefits from the seeds they sow.
This long-range planning will culminate with three big-money handicapping tournaments in 2009: the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship on Jan. 23 and 24 at Red Rock; the Horseplayer World Series from Feb. 19 to 21 at the Orleans; and the new South Point Finale on April 17 and 18.
I’ll christen this trio of tournaments as the “Horseplayer Triple Crown.” That would be some handicapping feat to sweep all three major titles.
Locally, there are many ways to qualify for the three tournaments, plus various other contests to sharpen your horseplayer skills and build your bankroll.
Station Casinos has a yearlong schedule of $40 and $200 qualifying tournaments for the NHC. The $40 ones are subqualifiers that lead to a Dec. 13 qualifier at Red Rock. Its next one is July 10, a $40 one-day contest at Palace Station.
Also, for those horseplayers in Henderson, the Sunset Station race and sports book is undergoing a modernization that should be completed before football season.
Coast Casinos also has a bevy of small and big tournaments leading to its 2009 HWS. The one-day Orleans Firecracker will be July 4. The entry fee is $100. Coast’s next big one will be the Gold Coast Summer Classic from July 24 to 26.
The next qualifier for the South Point Finale won’t be until Sept. 4.
The Las Vegas Hilton remains a heavyweight in local tournaments. Its next Pick the Ponies contest will be Aug. 21 to 23. The early-bird entry fee is $400 — $500 after Aug. 14.
The Hilton also has a weekly contest each Saturday in its SuperBook.
The Rampart and Cannery host a dual contest on the second Sunday of each month. It is free to enter.
Jerry’s Nugget has an East Coast handicapping contest on Fridays, plus a Del Mar contest to start in mid-July.
As busy as the schedule seems, it still pales to a few years ago when there were daily contests and twin quinellas wagers all over town, five days a week.
Still, it’s a positive recognition by the casinos that winning horseplayers are a can’t-lose profit center as they churn their bankroll, and winnings, through the mutuel windows.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.