Today at the New Jersey Racing Commission meeting their official report will state that the Borgata is now the only casino in Atlantic City to offer horse racing simulcasting. As of New Year’s Eve, Bally’s Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat all ended having simulcasting.
The once great Mecca on the east coast for gambling has come upon hard times over the past years and horse players are the first to feel the effects. Casinos in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland have taken their tolls on business along with online wagering sites.
The casino operators state that profits from horse racing simulcasting have decreased to the point where it is no longer profitable to offer wagering on the horses so they have cut it out and thus are cutting their losses.
About 12 miles from the casino strip in Atlantic City is Atlantic City Racecourse, which is also still offering simulcasting, but the majority of players who still enjoy watching and wagering on the ponies are flocking to the Borgata. In December the Borgata posted simulcast revenue of more than $133,000, which was equal to the total amount of revenue from the other four casinos that called it quits on simulcasting.
Most casinos thrive on being able to offer their patrons the opportunity to wager on any and all events they can legally offer. One could consider having simulcasting a proper addition to a gaming venue to keep patrons happy, even at a break even or loss, but such is not the case in Atlantic City. Thus the Borgata’s simulcasting revenue has already begun to increase as they are now the only game in town if you want to bet on horse racing.
It is hard to believe that in the coming months that only one casino in AC will offer wagering on the Kentucky Derby. I guess the lines will be out on the street that day to place a bet.
Alan Mitchell has been in Atlantic City since simulcasting began at the casinos back in 1993. He was the former harness racing handicapper for the Philadelphia Inquirer for many years who still follows and plays the horses.
“I just can’t believe there is only one casino in all of Atlantic City that has simulcasting,” Mitchell said. “Now there is no place on the boardwalk to place a bet. And all the numbers totaled leaves room for at least one casino on the boardwalk to have a racebook.
“Harrah’s came in years ago and built the casino and harness racetrack in Chester,” Mitchell said, “So they have invested in racing to get the casino yet their four casinos in AC have stopped simulcasting. That does not make sense. They own a racetrack yet cut out wagering on it at their sister casinos.
“The Delaware Valley area was always steeped in tradition for horse racing.” Mitchell explained. “Liberty Bell Park, Brandywine Raceway, Garden State Park, Atlantic City Racecourse, Keystone “Philadelphia” Park and Delaware Park all had successful meets and now only three tracks are left because they are in Pennsylvania and have casinos attached to them. But Harrah’s Philadelphia is the worst because they have never really tried to promote racing. The place is very poorly run.
“Harness racing was always a great night time entertainment venue in Philadelphia,” Mitchell explained. “And Harrah’s could have been popular if they raced at night instead of during the day and go against the other local thoroughbred tracks. That was just plain ludicrous. They have the same caliber of horses and the same top drivers competing as does the Meadowlands in New Jersey. But the Meadowlands races at night and takes in $3.5 million in handle while Harrah’s Philadelphia goes during the day and takes in maybe $500,000. Harrah’s has the lights to race at night but in all these years they have never made an effort to try a nighttime race schedule. If they had they may have gotten thousands of people to come out for the races at night.
“Harrah’s is not going to change what they are doing,” Mitchell said. “I predict they will put their track and casino on the market and try to get out of the racing business in Chester. If they do I hope someone comes along who will give it a try with night racing. It may not be a solution to the simulcasting ending at the casinos in Atlantic City, but perhaps once the other casinos see how well the Borgata can do being the only location in town to place a horse racing bet, other casinos may come back and reopen. We can only hope.”
By Steve Wolf for Harnesslink.com