Are Casinos Pushing Out Horse Tracks

Published on: March 10, 2008 

Gamblers in De Moines, Iowa sit at the slot machines and gambling tables at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino all day and night.  Unfortunately, that is leaving the stands at the establishment’s horse track pretty well empty.  This scene is not unique to the Iowa casino.  As a matter of fact most of the three dozen casino and racetracks across the United States are experiencing the same thing.  The thinning crowds are causing citizens to wonder why so much of the profit the casinos make that is supposed to support public programs is going to subsidize horse tracks and races that people don’t seem interested in.

According to Dr. Guy Clark, the chairman of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, feels that slot machines are a big help in funding the casinos.  He also goes on to ask why the racetrack industry should be bailed out by the government instead of just dying out like every other business that is no longer useful.  Of course, horse racing proponents claim that the casinos would’ve never gotten the go ahead from the government to be built if protection for the race track industry had not been built into the casino’s original operating plan.

Prairie Meadows problems probably started in 1995 when they became the first horse track in the United States to allow a casino to be built in conjunction with the races.  The non-profit corporation had gone bankrupt four years earlier because the races alone were not bringing in enough money to keep up the track.  The casino generated over one hundred eighty million dollars in 2006, fifty-seven million of it in profits alone.  Thirty million dollars of that money went to horse racing overhead and purses.

Iowa is not the only state to use casinos to help their horse racing Pennsylvania has spent more than $124 million dollars in casino revenue to help their tracks.  Louisiana used about half that amount to support their tracks, and New York recently has to use $105 million dollars of casino revenue to get the New York Racing Association out of bankruptcy.  $3.6 billion in gross gaming revenue was generated over thirty-six casino and racetracks nationwide, most of which was generated by slot machines.

Prairie Meadows has been losing money on their racetracks and there are many people in Iowa who do not feel that the revenues are being spent properly by supporting the horse racing.  It has been suggested that to lower costs, the horse racing season be shortened, freeing up money for better use.  Horse breeding and subsequent horse racing is considered an agricultural industry, but unfortunately the racing side of it does not seem to be a lucrative one.  Whether or not the subsidies for the industry will continue in the government remains to be seen.

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