Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Sure Bet for Horse Racing

A CNY Racetrack Struggles to Keep the Tradition Alive as the Economy Falters and Casino Competition Invades

Syracuse, NY --Owners of Vernon Downs Race Track in Verona, NY are faced with a difficult future. Representatives said they have taken a five percent decrease in revenue over the past two years --and both jockeys and owners know what's to blame.

"What hurts us here at Vernon is that three miles down the road we have the Turning Stone Casino," said jockey Cole Wimmer. "And for whatever reason people are just drawn to that place, I don't know why."

Business has declined at Vernon as more people bypass the track, drawn to the enticing world of tables, slots and hotel commodities. A bad economy has also decreased profits. But, another part of the problem is that racing fans are from an older generation. Tracks like Vernon are having a hard time attracting younger clientele to keep the tradition -- and business -- alive.

"I'm here because I love it and I love playing the horses. I've been playing them for 35 years," said racing fan Ed Marie.

It's All in the Family
Brown University grad, Frank Antonnacci has more than just ivy league on his resume. He's also a third generation jockey, attempting to carry on the family business.

"My grandfather actually started in the business back at Roosevelt Raceway," said Antonnacci.

And Antonnacci sees the future of horse racing as a glass half full.

An Opportunity?
Antonnacci thinks tracks should view encroaching casinos as an advantage rather than big competition.

"What I'm seeing now is a chance for a renaissance with slot induced purses and the exposure that casinos are bringing to race tracks again," said Antonnacci. "I think that we have a unique opportunity in the short future to reposition the game."

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