A day at the racinos

The Maryland state flag flies in front of Pimlico Racetrack, home of the Preakness Stakes, in Baltimore.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: There was a time in this country when horse racing was king. But the Sport of Kings has fallen on hard times the last 30 years or so. People don't go to the races the way they used to. They have a lot more choices for gambling, like lotteries and casinos. A number of race tracks have actually closed, but ironically, one thing that might save horse racing in some states is slot machines. This week, Maryland's governor issued a report touting the benefits of adding slots to the state's race tracks. Our Business of Sports commentator Diana Nyad joins us. Good morning, Diana.

Diana Nyad: Scott how are ya?

Jagow: I'm doing OK. How have slots worked so far in other states where they've put them in at horse tracks.

Nyad: Well you know they're calling them now "racinos," meaning the race track and the casino combined and I would bet you dimes to donuts that we'll sit talking about five years, there won't be one pure racetrack left in the United States. They'll all be racinos.

Jagow: Really?

Nyad: Yeah. That's what I think. Take example in New Mexico: Ruidoso Race Track, very popular racetrack founded in 1947, and it used to be that throughout the summer in the '50s and '60s the stands were filled and then it trickled down, trickled off, and by the early '90s the racetrack was dying. You could go there and it would be just no lines whatever at the betting windows. So in '99 they gave in and they called it Billy the Kid Casino. They combined it and if you drive by there now, the Ruidoso Race Track is a small little addition. It's the Billy the Kids Casino that just happens to have a nice little horse track on the side.

Jagow: The people who support this idea of having slots at racetracks, tout it as a way to save thoroughbred racing, for example in Maryland where it has a big tradition in racing with the Pimlico, there's 9,000 jobs in the industry in Maryland. Are you buying that idea that slots would actually save the horse racing industry there?

Nyad: Yeah. Since part of the that slot money — a quarter of it virtually — goes to the purses, then it'll let us get back and attract some more better horses in here, get some better races going and the whole industry buffers.

Jagow: So part of the money does go to the horsemen as they call them, the people who train the horses, and ride the horses and all that?

Nyad: About a quarter of the profits go to them. You got a quarter of nothing, that's why the fields are slower and fields are more sparse. But if the slot machines are there, it's been proven all the way around the country: Indiana, Illinois, it's been proven everywhere. The slot machines do help the horse industry.

Jagow: All right I guess we're gonna have to deal with racinos from now on.

Nyad: Cha-ching.

Jagow: Thanks Diana.

Nyad: Thanks Scott.

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