Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Texas Gambling Bill Unites an Unlikely Pair

Here’s a headline you don’t read every day:
Gambling bill unites Baptists, racetracks

Yesterday, at the 81st Legislative Bienniel Party in Austin, a bill to expand gambling in Texas was introduced. According to the Star-Telegram,
A bipartisan quartet of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to permit nine showcase casinos in major cities.

Although the legislation includes the racing industry’s long-sought goal of installing slot machines at horse and dog tracks, track officials oppose the bill because it would tax slot machines’ revenue at more than twice the rate of casinos’.

Casinos would be taxed at 15 percent and slot-machine revenue at 35 percent.

The articles goes on to say that billions of dollars will go towards scholarships and high schools and transportation and a slew of fat-cats casino operators.

Our good friend and president and general manager of Lone Star Park, Drew Shubeck said that if slot revenue generated at racetracks were taxed at the same rate as casinos, "we wouldn’t have any trouble with it."

Slick answer.

The reality of the situation is that the Texas horsemen and racetracks have their own bill in the works: The Texas Horse Tradition Preservation Act.

It’s no secret that Texas racing has been attempting to secure VLTs at racetracks to supplement their purses to be competitive to its neighbors Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Past legislative sessions resulted in various bills being introduced; each horse organization submitted their own version. The bills languished in committee, eventually destined to be recycled as pet bedding for guinea pigs. However, this year the horse industry formed a strong and unified Baptist-free alliance – Texas HORSE (Horse Organizations for Racing, Showing & Eventing). Their bill, to be introduced during this legislative session, pours the money generated by VLTs back into the Texas horse industry, not only racing purses, but also awards for performance horses. Texas HORSE is energized and optimistic. And they have Lyle Lovett featured in their smart new video. I mean, who doesn’t like Lyle Lovett?

So, if you connect the dots, it makes perfect sense that racetracks probably wouldn’t support this casino bill regardless of the proposed taxation but they have a handy excuse. And Baptists won’t support any gaming bill, period.

Which begs this important question: Do Baptists listen to Lyle Lovett?

Interestingly enough, the blog Texas Politics which covers the sundry of on-going antics in Austin, reported that "Texans overwhelmingly support allowing slot machines on Indian reservations and at Texas race tracks." Apparently, 63% of the randomly called registered voters supported expanded gaming in a recent poll.

Which begs another important question: Is there a disproportionate number of Baptists on the 'Do Not Call' List? Or perchance they screen the caller ID to avoid participating in random polls? The Texas Baptist Convention's General Life Commission is a formidable gambling opponent.

I speculate that shortly the Texas Horse Tradition Preservation Act will be introduced. Here’s a sample headline:

Gambling bill unites Baptists, casinos

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    MEC Bailout Hinges on the Success of a Couple of Dime Superfectas

    A couple of years ago, before the stock market tumbled into a septic tank, The Motley Fool published a New Year’s Resolutions column that encouraged timid investors to dabble with their own stock purchases utilizing online trading services, such as Ameritrade and Sharebuilder. The Fool intimated that the purchase of "stocks of personal interest", i.e., businesses of products/services that you routinely utilize or enjoy, would provide some sort of emotional connection and fan the flames of fiscal excitement, or something to that effect. Thinking this was a good idea at the time, I scrounged up some loose change from under the sofa cushions, opened an online account and purchased a modest amount of various "stocks of personal interest." Obviously, my "personal interest" includes horse racing, specifically horse racing at Lone Star Park.

    Okay, here’s where it gets good ...

    I bought MEC.

    At the time, Magna stock (MECA) was trading somewhere around $7 per share. Having the financial wizardry of a bumblebee, I speculated that there was lots of room for growth and it could soon be as competitive as Churchill Downs, Inc. (CHDN) So I set my investments free into the winds of Wall Street and promptly forgot my Ameritrade password. And we all know the rest of the story:

    • MEC stock drops
    • MEC stock is down
    • MEC borrows ridiculous sums of cash from MI Developments
    • Frank Stronach holds auditions for yodeling bimbos to peddle Frank’s Energy Drink
    • MEC stock drops
    • MEC stock is really down
    • MEC initiates a 1:20 reverse stock split
    • Sue now owns 0.6697 shares of MEC
    • MEC closes at $0.30 on Friday, 2/20/09

    My MEC partial-share is worth a whopping 21 cents today. That’s two 10-cent superfectas.

    I’m not whining about the few bucks I originally invested awhile back. Honestly, I’ve blown more money on a bad day at the track, but at least I still enjoyed a couple of frozen margaritas in the beautiful Texas sunshine during the process. But it’s the horse racing industry that’s getting gypped while Magna plays hacky sack with finances.

    Lone Star Park’s opening day is April 9th. Magna operates the racetrack and owns the racing license, but it’s the city – Grand Prairie Sports Facilities Development Corp. – that owns the track. And according to Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England, the city is prepared to operate the racetrack if necessary, albeit briefly. "[Grand Prairie] can’t afford to have the track go dark," the mayor said.

    Lone Star Park is the centerpiece of Grand Prairie’s entertainment district. The little parcel of land between Dallas and Fort Worth that was originally acquired in 1863 by trading a broken wagon, an ox team, and two hundred Confederate dollars, is also home to the NOKIA Theater, the AirHogs A-Rodless Professional Baseball Team, GPX Skate Park, and a couple dozen Starbucks. Clearly, Grand Prairie isn’t going to allow itself to go down with the Magna ship. Mayor England is probably planning a backyard barbecue for Halsey Minor at this very moment!

    As for me, I got to go place a couple of bets.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Shopping for a Derby Winner

    Each year I say to myself, I’m not gonna do it.

    No. No way. No how. Resist. It’s a sucker bet. No. No! My $2 can feed 10 Haitian children for a day. NO! I’m not going to place one single, silly wager!


    But like an early bird shopper camping out at Kohl’s the day after Thanksgiving, I can’t resist the bargains I discover in the first Kentucky Derby Futures Wager’s Pool, which opened yesterday.

    "Oh lookee!" I squeal. "Old Fashioned has morning line odds of 10-1! If Old Fashioned continues to build on his successful 2-year-old campaign – especially his Remsen win, and if he is really ‘three or four lengths ahead of the curve’ as trainer Larry Jones has said, and if he remains injury-free and actually runs in the Derby 78 days from now, what’s the probability that I’ll see odds like that on Derby day? Ooo ... I’ll take it.”

    Before you know it, I just bought a bright yellow shirt that I don’t need.

    I look longingly at Pioneerof the Nile. 20-1. Gee, I liked his CashCall Futurity. And I like Bob Baffert. I can’t resist the temptation ...

    Shoes. Hot-pink slingbacks. And they don’t match the shirt.

    Silver City’s at 50-1. Wow! I’m a homer. Lots of Texas connections – trainer Bret Calhoun, owner Clarence Scharbauer. Plus Gary West has written about him and seems to like him. So what if Silver City hasn’t run past 6 ½ furlongs yet. And it’s only a couple of bucks anyway.

    I now have a cute chartreuse skirt. It matches neither the shoes nor the shirt.

    And finally, I’m unable to resist the sentimental wager of Stardom Bound (12-1). It’s completely frivolous and somewhat sexist. She’s yet to run against the boys and, at this writing, I can't remember her even being pointed towards the Derby. But the image of the filly standing amidst roses in the Winner's Circle offers perhaps a little redemption following Eight Belles' tragedy and the subsequent fallout.


    Now all I’m missing is a Derby hat. Perhaps I’ll find that in the next futures pool.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Medication Madness

    Recently it was reported that baseball’s Alex Rodriguez tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs back in 2003. Subsequently, A-Rod confessed to having used banned substances and steroids while he played for the Texas Rangers.

    While the report disappointed many baseball fans, team owners and executives, the news energized Steve Asmussen’s critics:

    Press release – The Ban Asmussen from Racing Faction, or BARF, announced today that they have conclusive information that links trainer Steve Asmussen with the use of banned substances. BARF President, Edgar Noodlemeyer, said, “Evidence indicates that Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie is 6.45 miles away from the Ballpark in Arlington. In light of the disclosure that A-Rod was using performance-enhancing drugs during his stint with the Texas Rangers, we can conclude with 97.6422% certainty that Asmussen’s horses stopped by the Rangers’ clubhouse on their way to the racetrack.”

    Of course I am just making this up. Everyone knows that traffic on I-30 is terrible and there would be no way for the horses to make post time.

    Anyway, the A-Rod incident provoked thoughts and discussions about horse racing’s on-going medication problems. International racing consultant, E. Abraham Ola, wrote a thoughtful essay on The Blood-Horse that calls for the return of America’s once drug-free iron horse days. Bill Pressey writes a blog, The Science of Horse Training; he offers up advice to prevent bleeding and perhaps eliminate the use of Lasix,
    Don't let Lasix do all of this work for you, fine tune the training process

    Numerous comments throughout posts and message boards sound-off in favor of eliminating drugs altogether. Hay, oats and water. However, there shouldn’t be opposition to good veterinarian care. So somewhere in this murky madness of medication there must be some kind of reform or resolution.

    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Grab Your Doritos and Get to the Couch - Jockeys Premieres

    Tonight is the first installment of the much-ballyhooed reality TV series, Jockeys.

    The first time I saw a promo for Jockeys was a couple of days ago, on FitTV while I was working out with Gilad, the fitness guru who conducts his workouts on the beautiful beaches of Hawaii with his ensemble of beautiful individuals who look so ridiculously happy when he's guiding them through a regimen of inner thigh and abdominal exercises that it makes me wish I could quit all this stupid fitness stuff and sit down with a bag of Doritos and watch All My Children because Greenlee and Erica having a cat-fight would be a lot more appealing than listening to Gilad bellow, "Feel your muscles burn! You can do it! You want it!".

    Anyway, I found the placement of the Jockeys promo interesting because, quite frankly, there is little resemblance between Gilad and jockeys.

    And furthermore, when I think of "fit", jockeys don't exactly come to mind. Granted, there is an element of athleticism required to be a 100-pound jockey, but making weight can present a big challenge.

    The severe weight restrictions placed on jockeys often necessitates the use of extreme measures to achieve the necessary weight to compete. Current methods of rapid weight loss reported to be used by jockeys include restricted calorie and fluid intake; starvation; saunas; exercising while wearing sweat suits; purging; and the occasional use of diuretics and laxatives. [Irish Times]

    Not exactly fit.

    Additionally, according to Jockeys' website,

    The Jockeys' Guild receives 2,500 injury notifications in a year. The average jockey gets sidelined by injuries about three times a year.

    Perhaps a promo on FitTV's Rebuilt: The Human Body Shop would be more applicable.

    Regardless, I look forward to watching the television series. So, Tune-in or TiVo. And remember: Work for it! You want it! You can do it!

    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Eclipse Review

    Don't you hate it when you grab a beer and a package of pretzels and turn on your TV, expecting to sit down and watch the Eclipse Awards, only to find Super Bowl XLIII is on? That's when it dawns on you, "Oh man, the Eclipse Awards was last week."

    Fear not, horse racing fans. Ray Paulick and the E Street Band did an outstanding job covering the spectacle with professionalism and enthusiasm. Unlike many live blogs, which can result in lengthy and pointless run-on sentences, Mr. Paulick used his covert Palm Treo to provide quick bullet points of important occurring events.

    For example:
    7:20RP…Dinner is served! Ceremonies starting soon.

    7:37RP…Kenny Rice don’t give up your day job to become a stand up comic

    8:18RP…Dessert was outstanding…my first roast hazelnut praline, chocolate terrine, coconut bavaroise

    8:32RP…Love the lecture from the handicapper of the year. He’s really good.

    8:35RP…I think Steven Crist wishes he had a hook to yank the handicapper off stage

    8:37RP…Now I wish I had a hook for this guy. I take my earlier comments back.

    Exceptionally informative live blog. And it got me to wonder, "What the heck is coconut bavaroise? And do they serve it at Lone Star Park?"

    My in-depth research (read: WikiAnswers) provided the answer to what is bavaroise.

    1. A hot drink made from eggs, milk, and tea, sweetened and flavoured with a liqueur; seventeenth-century Bavarian.

    2. French; (crème bavarois) a cold dessert made from egg custard with gelatine and cream.

    3. Hollandaise sauce with crayfish garnish.

    Thus, one can extrapolate from the information gleaned that coconut bavaroise is cold gelatin with eggs, cream, and crawdads with lots of liqueur for taste served in a coconut shell with one of those cute little umbrellas. Yum.

    Well, if they serve coconut bavaroise at Lone Star Park I won't be ordering it any time soon. But you have to admit that Coconut Bavaroise is a pretty good name for a racehorse. Or a Pittsburgh Steeler.

    Query: Has there ever been a horse named Coconut Bavaroise? This required additional investigation. So, being the industrious fact-finding blogger that I am, I sent an email to our resident librarian, Turf Luck's Quinella Queen. She knows everything.

    "No luck finding Coconut Bavaroise, but, for some reason, I find this precious: How to Make a Horse Sound with a Coconut."

    It's actually a very complex procedure: Clap two halves of a coconut together to produce a sound effect of horses hooves. I believe Monty Python and the Holy Grail received an Eclipse Award for sound effects.

    Our favorite librarian continued, "However, if there was a horse named Coconut Bavaroise, and if that horse happened to be of the chestnut color, there's a recipe for that from Tartelette."

    Chestnut Bavaroise. Not exactly a staple at a Super Bowl party, but it's not a bad name for a racehorse.