Monday afternoon the Missouri Horse Racing Commission held their first meeting in 10 years. The meeting was led by Gene McNary, the Executive Director of the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC), at the MGC’s main office in Jefferson City. The topics at hand were transferring the rules authority of horse racing away from the Missouri Department of Revenue to the MGC, and the possibility of bringing the horse racing industry back to life.
Horse racing didn’t survive in Missouri because there was not a strong enough market to sustain the industry. The Kansas City Star ran an AP article that explained:
Missouri voters approved pari-mutuel wagering at horse tracks with a 60 percent majority in 1984, but authorized only limited simulcasting, where bettors wager on races at other tracks that are shown on television screens. Under current law, a track may offer simulcast betting only for as many days as it holds live horse races.
Because the industry could not sustain races in Missouri they were unable to continue offering such simulcast betting.
As explained by one commissioner in the AP article:
You have to have a casino in the track,” said commission member Charles “Herb” Butler of Kahoka, a former jockey who is now a pari-mutuel judge in Iowa. “It can’t be a separate place, or it will go broke.
That is why it seems that the Executive Director of the Missouri Gaming Commission wants control, because setting up racinos all over the state to expand gambling is being advocated. This idea is not unique and most states are discovering that the sport of horse racing is not the true attraction, the slots are.
Stateline.org ran a story detailing just how much expansion of gambling takes place in order to prop up the horse industry:
* Indiana, which already has 11 commercial casinos, will open two horse tracks in downstate this summer that will feature 2,000 slot machines …
* Pennsylvania, which already has 15,000 slots at its six racinos and one casino, expects to add another 1,200 slots this year. When the gambling law is fully implemented, Pennsylvania will have 61,000 slots, second only to Las Vegas…
* Maryland voters this November will get to settle a long-running feud in Annapolis over whether to legalize 15,000 slots at tracks to bolster the state’s horse-racing industry.
* New York plans to allow 4,500 video slot machines at the Aqueduct thoroughbred track in Queens, which would dwarf the total of 13,000 slots at eight other racetracks in the Empire state.
There are also states like Kansas, Massachusetts and New Hampshire who are looking to implement these racinos. Sadly, even racinos are not always enough to save the industry as states like Illinois are asking state legislators to help subsidize their racinos to keep the tracks open.
When the Missouri Horse Racing Commission tells you that the casinos are a must or horse racing wont survive, and when you look at how many states must have casinos with their tracks, its easy to conclude that regardless of your position on horse racing, it represents a massive expansion of gambling in order to have any hope of survival.