- Horse Racing - Lots to like about slots, part 2

Jay Cronley
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Thursday, February 19
Lots to like about slots, part 2

Slots are coming to my horse race track, which is good news for a number of reasons.

One, it should make track management a pretty penny. For some reason, track management has become The Man, the target of the us-against-them mentality. With track management raking in a cut of slot treasure, who knows, maybe they'll take some Lysol to the automatic betting machine screens.

Two, profits from slots will dramatically increase race purses, which will benefit local horsemen and keep the industry thriving even though nobody might go to the races. Horse racing is the only sport in the world where an empty grandstand might be great news. Thank heavens they're not sitting in general admission, wagering two dollars to show. They're in the slot machine casino instead, putting hundreds and thousands into play!

Three, slots will bring manners to the race track.

In recent history, no gambler has had to work harder to get a lousy bet down than the average horse player.

I have gotten better service at the rooster fights than at some horse race tracks.

Casino gamblers can be treated like royalty. They're never treated worse than equals.

Somehow, the story has caught on that the racing industry in general and certain tracks in particular are doing horse players favors by letting us make a bet.

Here is what I had to do last weekend to bet $100 at the horse races.

First, I had to change seats to find a television monitor with sound that worked. Then I had to change seats again to find a light that didn't flicker. Old tickets and half of a beer had been left by the previous occupant of this seat. Moisture from the beer bottle seeped through my Racing Form. I moved again, sitting this time by a drunk.

He asked me if I'd make a five-dollar bet for him.

I asked him whose five-spot he was talking about.

He handed over five singles and wrote his bet on the back of a beer bottle label.

I went first to an automatic betting machine and stood behind somebody running through tickets picked from the floor. I asked if he would let me in front of him. He said no.

I then went to a human teller and was fifth in line. The person in front asked me if I would save her place while she went back to her seat a minute. I didn't know what to say and said nothing. She said thanks a lot and turned to the front and took her time when it was her turn to bet.

The teller got my bet right on the second run-through.

I went back to my seat and gave the drunk his ticket and watched the horses loaded into the gate. At this precise moment, a waitress arrived to ask if I wanted anything. I told her I just wanted to watch the horses run.

The odds on this race seemed to readjust themselves after the race started. Such occurrences used to be commonplace at tiny tracks where bets were seemingly made by unsavory sorts up to the point when the horses turned for home. But this race was run at a major facility. Still and all, the favorite that had appeared to be 2-1 at post time turned out to be something closer to even money once they got going.

What happens sometimes through the magic of simulcast races is off-shore betting operations hook up big bets an instant before the post.

A couple of tracks have banned late bets from certain off-shore gambling joints, why I'll never know. While it can be irritating to see a late bet turn a number against you, somebody still has to pick a winner, right?

A horse race track turning down bets, what will they think of next?

Anyway, I won a couple of dollars and here is what making that bet felt like: hard work.

Here's what betting fifty cents at an Indian casino slot machine feels like: a pleasure.

I stopped by a slots-only Indian casino last Friday noon and barely found a seat. It was full of mostly retired people. It's like I've said, older people are the future of gambling.

I sat down at a 50-cent machine and somebody brought me a free cup of coffee.

Shortly thereafter, another employee brought me a hot dog.

I asked how much?

She said it, too, was on the house.

This is the kind of treatment that could be headed to a horse race track near you.

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