The Horses' Asses in Statehouses

Is your blood pressure too low? Then just conduct periodic Google News searches on the phrase "out of money." You'll get stuff like this Associated Press story:

The chief executive of the New York Racing Association said Monday he's confident an infusion of state cash and the impending selection of a bidder for operating a casino at Aqueduct Racetrack indicate NYRA's financial problems are over as the lucrative Saratoga racing season approaches. [...]

There were concerns that Saratoga's season could be in jeopardy because of NYRA's financial woes. But the Legislature approved a $25 million loan late last month to keep Saratoga and NYRA's downstate tracks, Aqueduct and Belmont, open.

I will repeat myself: Until state governments disentangle themselves from this kind of 100 percent inexcusable, non-core crap, they do not qualify for anything but contempt. And note, too, that–as Jacob Sullum details in his great 2008 feature on America's online gambling prohibitions–wherever states are in businesses that they have no business being in business in, you can bet that their protection of those rackets will include criminalizing the 100 percent peaceful transactions of not only their own residents, but even furriners who don't live here. It's outrageous, immoral, and ubiquitous.

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  • ||

    Maybe "where's my bailout?" will become a reasonable question soon enough. I'm excited...

  • The Thinking Man's NASCAR||

    Oh, come off it, Matt. Anyone with any knowledge of the early Republic knows that supporting racetracks has always been a core function of government in this country. The private sector just won't do it!

  • I Am Sparticus!||

    EOM

  • SIV||

    Only government can fuck up a "license to print money" business model.

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    Plus seven come eleven.

  • ||

    Eh, i could fuck it up too. It's not THAT hard.

  • Rabbit Scribe||

    Come to think of it, you make a good point. Could start with paying out, like, 200-1 for blackjacks, maybe move on to slot machines with just two types of fruit on the wheels...

  • Russ R.||

    The dead-horse-beating guy in the image looks a lot like Michael Bolton. (The one from "Office Space").

  • ||

    I believe it is Michael Bolton from Office Space, just cartoonized.

  • Brett L||

    Can we get someone to fill in the line of pixels on that last image in the gif?

  • Jeffersonian||

    Somalia is, as we all are aware, bereft of horse racing tracks. Ergo, the failure to subsidize same means we come just that much closer to that anarchic hellhole.

    Save civilization: Fund the ponies.

  • ||

    There are so many layers of fuck up here it is hard to know where to begin. First, the NYRA is a government sponsored monopoly that operates under God knows how many profit inhibiting rules. If they would actually let horse tracks operate in a free market and let them partner up freely with things like casinos and make money from off track betting, there would be plenty of money to be made.

  • ||

    Not really money to be made but rather money to be moved redistributed. Gambling is not a productive activity.

  • ||

    It is no less productive than Hollywood. It provides the service of entertainment. No more no less.

  • ||

    Actually, much less, since Hollywood produces intellectual property (aka "art") and gambling produces...well, nothing.

  • ||

    Dan,

    The only reason "intellectual property" is valuable is because it entertains people. It is all the same production and all the same business be it Hollywood, the NFL or horse racing.

  • ||

    Hey now, dontchu go messin' with thur spawts.

  • ||

    Gambling produces entertainment. Not my preferred form, but it is something people are willing to pay for.

  • Astrid||

    Maybe you should explain that to places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City Dan T.

  • Brett L||

    Gambling is non-productive, facilitating gambling is filthy lucrative.

  • Jordan||

    You really don't understand the concept of utility, do you? You're such an economic ignoramus.

  • ||

    There are so many layers of fuck up here it is hard to know where to begin. First, the NYRA is a government sponsored monopoly that operates under God knows how many profit inhibiting rules. If they would actually let horse tracks operate in a free market and let them partner up freely with things like casinos and make money from off track betting, there would be plenty of money to be made.

  • ||

    Truth. Nothing to disagree with or amplify here. This will not stop spendthrift state and local governments from crying poveerty and going hat in hand to DC begging for bailouts.

    The irresponsibility disgusts me.

  • ||

    Note to NYRA:

    Your financial woes will never be over. Nobody gives a shit about midgets riding horsies any more. Give it up.

  • ||

    That is bullshit. People do. But you can't run it the way the state wants you to run it. And horse racing is a fabulous sport. Just because the country has too many Nascar watching philistines, doesn't mean it can't make money.

  • The Thinking Man's NASCAR||

    ... Hey!

  • The Gobbler||

    I thought of you when I first read the post.

  • ||

    Horse racing has been on the decline since Vegas got rolling in the 1950s (I know it started earlier, but that's when it began to take off.)

    It prospered for a long time because it was the only legal way to gamble (outside of church bingo games).

    When there were other ways to gamble, horse racing began to lose market share. While it will always be a niche market, it will no longer be the dominant form of gambling entertainment.

  • Steven Smith||

    Actually, John, in most states horse tracks and casinos aren't run by the state, but by private corporations, such as California. And in California, both Hollywood Park and Santa Anita are on the verge of closing down as well.

  • Spoonman.||

    STEVE SMITH CHANGE NAME TO BETTER AMBUSH HIKER! YOU LIKE?

  • Rational Redneck||

    That's because they're not doing it right. What racing needs is more titties. You put some topless hooters girls on those ponies and I guarantee you'll have a fine business on your hand. These miscreants just ain't creative enough.

    There ain't no problem can't be solved with more titties and more beer.

  • ||

    This...this is making insanely good sense to me.

  • ||

    Actually Steve, I never said they were run by the state. I said they were a state sanctioned monopoly. The state will legalize gambling but then grant the privilege to one or two select cronies. To me that is not real legalization. And it pretty much ensures that things are not going to work properly.

    And indeed, there needs to be fewer horse tracks. And those tracks closing down wouldn't be such a big deal if they were not government sanctioned monopolies. We the government can't be expected to let the good old boys go broke can they? Let anyone who wants to run a horse track and the market will shake out with fewer and better run tracks.

  • ||

    STEVE SMITH LIKE BETTING ON HORSES! STEVE PROVIDE MOTIVATION BY RAPING AND EATING LOSER! BOTH HORSE AND JOCKEY, BECAUSE JOCKEY ONLY APPETIZER!

  • ||

    The Reason staff assures everyone that this gigantopithicus has been tamed. They are letting him on the cruise.

  • ||

    STEVE NOT GIGANTOPITHECUS! STEVE MERELY LARGE SPECIMEN OF PARANTHROPUS ROBUSTUS! JOHN NEED REMEDIAL EVOLUTION CLASS BECAUSE JOHN IS LAWYER AND ONLY UNDERSTANDS NEANDERTHALS!

  • ||

    "Robustus", instead of "Robustica"? Dang.

  • ||

    Maybe he's just a failsafe against pirate attacks.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Rape-off between STEVE SMITH and horse...who wins?

  • ||

    Since I am at work, I am not going to touch that link with Mr. Hands.

  • ||

    The biggest problem is that so many states have absurd laws that prevent them from running a deficit.

  • Spoonman.||

    It's like you're not even trying.

  • ||

    Yeah, I'm conflicted here. If the populace wants Belmont et. al. to remain open because it enjoys them, and because of their historical significance, why not use the instrument of the state to accomplish that goal?

    Though, I have to wonder, if the upcoming racing season is projected to be "so lucrative", why couldn't they secure a private loan for that $25 million?

  • ||

    Because they are bloated and waste money on races and prize money and employees that don't accomplish anything. If you just ran a single session at Belmont and a single session at Saratoga, you could keep the Belmont and the Travers and make tons a money. You would have a limited product that met the demand. But no they can't do that. Once they became a government sponsored monopoly they were obligated to keep tracks open and run seasons that didn't make economic sense.

  • ||

    Don't forget the small but powerful Pari-mutuel unions. It used to be a summer job for teachers, but they started making so much money (it was over $20/hour in Kentucky by 1986) they agitated to stay open all year for OTB.

  • ||

    I didn't realize that. Gee, how surprising is it that unions have helped break another industry?

  • ||

    Dealing with pari-mutuels when I was 16 and working my first summer job gave me a fine gift: lifelong hatred of unions. The state supported monopoly of horse racing mandated that the tracks had to deal with the P-M union exclusively.

  • ||

    That is why government sponsored monopolies usually lose money. You would think getting a monopoly would make you money. But the government sanctioned ones come with strings attached that make it impossible to make money.

  • T||

    Because the populace doesn't. The legislature does. If the populace valued what the establishment provided, they'd be there spending their money or donating their money to the charitable foundation that ran it as a historical attraction. See how that works?

  • ||

    But, that's like, people making their own choices. That's illegal, ain't it?

  • ||

    If the populace wants Belmont et. al. to remain open because it enjoys them, and because of their historical significance, why not use the instrument of the state spend their own goddamn money at the track to accomplish that goal?

    Seriously, the best way to ensure that a business stays open is to part with your money at said business. If enough people do not support a business, then it fails, and should fail...this is a feature of capitalism.

  • ||

    If I had a historic track like the Belmont in my state, I might like to see it remain open just for the historical aspect. But I don't enjoy horse racing, and neither do lots of other people. I'm not going to go there and be bored just to keep the place open.

    Seems like an analogous situation to the national park system. Not everybody goes. As far as I know, the parks aren't self-sufficient based on what they charge for entry. And yet, most folks are quite willing to subsidize their continued existence via tax dollars.

  • Jordan||

    If I had a historic track like the Belmont in my state, I might like to see it remain open just for the historical aspect.

    Then pay for it yourself. I like video games. How about I get the state to subsidize my video game purchases? Oh, you don't like that? Well, I don't like fucking horse racing.

  • T||

    Your argument is essentially that if enough people (a majority, for argument) are in favor, the government should run a money-losing business. So you'd be fine with the government taking over Disneyland, and slashing ticket prices in half? I can guarantee you a subsidized Disneyland would be far more popular than all the national parks or horse tracks combined. Where's your logic end?

  • ||

    I would prefer the govt. not "take over" existing for-profit businesses like Disneyland. Disneyland seems to be doing fine on its own. Now if Disneyland were deemed to be of "historical/cultural significance" (which I'd argue against) but had become financially unviable, then I might support some sort of state intervention.

    Let me flip this around and ask you: how would you apply your logic to the national parks? Should parks be "allowed to fail" if they aren't commercially viable without govt. assistance? Should they be completely privatized without any regulation? (e.g. Joe Park decides to allow commercial logging in order to maintain profitability)?

  • T||

    My national parks solution? Sell them off to the highest bidder. You want to keep it as a park? Fine. You want to donate it to Nature Conservancy? Fine. You want to open a housing development? Fine.

    The government should not be in the business of running recreational facilities. It subsidizes the interests of the few at the expense of the many, which is in most contexts considered a bad thing.

  • ||

    "You want to open a housing development? Fine."

    I'd consider this to be an incredible tragedy. And, honestly, I don't trust the market to make the right call.

    "The government should not be in the business of running recreational facilities."

    I can see your point here. The govt. could always sell the land yet still regulate how it can be used. Of course, depending on the extent of that regulation, the land may be deemed incapable of generating a profit and there may be nobody willing to buy it.

    Alternately, the govt. could retain ownership but bid out the day-to-day operation and maintenance to private firms.

    Of course I realize neither of these would be satisfactory to you.

  • T||

    Honestly, national parks are so far down my list of things to be concerned about as to not even register. And this only applies on the federal level, as I see no federal basis for parks. States want to run parks, that's a different ball of wax and something the citizens of that state need to argue about.

    As for your two scenarios, I see no functional difference between your first and zoning regulations in general.

    As for the second? Sure, that works. Gets the .gov out of direct management and hopefully reduces .gov spending. Again, not ideal, but never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  • ||

    f I had a historic track like the Belmont in my state, I might like to see it remain open just for the historical aspect

    Followed by:

    But I don't enjoy horse racing, and neither do lots of other people. I'm not going to go there and be bored just to keep the place open.

    It sounds like you don't know what the fuck you want, but would like the taxpayers to pick up the bill for your capriciousness.

    As for an old horse track; Ft. Necessity it ain't. If it cannot make money(especially with its government granted monopoly), then tear it down and put up a wal-mart or something.

  • ||

    Maybe NY should just threaten to seize the track from the owners in Chap 11, like they did in Maryland with the Preakness if the owners try to sell the track?

    I mean, you don't want that money to flow into some grubby private hands do you? There's nothing more 'Merican than gamblin' and gamblin' money should go right to the state capital, right?

  • ||

    Hollywood produces intellectual property

    This is why nobody takes you seriously.

  • cynical||

    It's sort of true. Races are a performance, not a creation. Theater chains would be a better analogy for race-tracks. They don't produce movies or anything else, they just sit people in a sticky chair, show them pictures while people chat on their cell phone, and sell them overpriced junk food. That's entertainment.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    So if the tracks video taped all the races, then they'd be engaged in "creation". Bam, moral equivalence acheived. QED.

  • ||

    If the populace wants Belmont et. al. to remain open because it enjoys them, and because of their historical significance, why not use the instrument of the state to accomplish that goal?

    If "the populace" actually wanted these places to stay open, the interference of the state would be unnecessary. See how that works?

  • ||

    They do. And they do pay. Belmont makes money. But it only makes money a few weeks a year. Same with Saratoga. Aquaduct is probably doomed. Basically, the government has created a monopoly and demanded that monopoly create an over supply. And now the government is shocked the monopoly is losing money. There will still be horse racing and still be a Belmont and a Travers. But there won't be as much horse racing because the market won't support it.

  • ||

    I'd be fine with that. It seemed that the contrast was between "state run Belmont" and "no Belmont at all".

  • Jeff P.||

    Thank god horse racing has no deep-running long-term cash-flow ties with organized crime...

  • ||

    Yeah. Lets regulate the hell out of it. Or better yet lets ban it. Making something illegal is a sure way to keep organized crime out of it.

  • ||

    It's outrageous, immoral, and ubiquitous.

    Outmortuous!

  • T||

    Is it neologism day here, or what?

  • ||

    it only makes money a few weeks a year.

    Guess what...

  • Paul Krugman||

    We need to deficit spend until it is profitable?

  • ||

    Purely as an aside: In all the places that I have ever worked, I have never been treated worse by an entire class of people than how I was treated by jockeys. Abusive, arrogant little fuckers.

  • ||

    They are also crooked little bastards. I had a late uncle who ran quarter horses for years. He hated jockeys. I said if you ever watch, on a week day during the last day of a meet, there will be three or four long shots hit. It is called "jockey day" in the trade. Basically the little fuckers will throw two or three races right at the end of the meet so they can get some traveling money. They are always up to something shady.

  • Napoleon Bonaparte||

    I thank you for refraining from using the obvious reference to me, mon amie!

  • Ragin Cajun||

    They were angry elves.

  • Hobie Hanson||

    Herr Welch has never heard of the free rider problem.

  • ||

    Don't be his porn.

  • x,y||

    Think of the jockeys!

  • ||

    Based on "cultural memory" I believe it would a a tragic shame if vaudeville shows were to perish from the Earth. Since most people obviously do not agree with me, I believe they should be forced to support my hobby.

    Society should impose a tax on movies to subsidize vaudeville.

  • The Gobbler||

    The city of Minneapolis did that with the Shubert theater in 1999. Spent Five million to roll it one block down the street. Eleven years later and it's still just an empty shell.

    http://www.stubbsmovers.com/shubert.shtml

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