Gaming, racing not 24/7 essential

The entrance and racetrack at the Casino at the Downs of Albuquerque.

The entrance and racetrack at the Casino at the Downs of Albuquerque.

The Sept. 19 Journal carried pro and con articles on expanding gambling at the racinos in New Mexico. A little more information will help the argument.

A few years ago, an elected New Mexico official was found to have used the ATM at an Indian gambling casino to tap her campaign funds to help her gambling habit. So, is putting ATMs in racinos really important? Well, to chronic, hard-core gamblers, of course. But is gambling necessary? A rhetorical question of course.

And how important is horse racing anyway? In 1890, there were over 300 tracks in the United States, and how many there now? Read to the end – the answer is in the last line.

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My health care provider, Presbyterian, provides services 24/7 through its combination emergency room/urgent care centers. This is a true essential service, while there is nothing about gambling, either in person or online, that makes it so. Perhaps a small percent of people who have some need to gamble constantly do, but there is nothing to support a round-the-clock system to separate people from their money.

Yes, gambling revenue, which comes to the New Mexico treasury from both Indian gambling casinos and racinos, does generate an important source of revenue. But how much comes from the Indian casinos vs. the racinos? Given the larger number of Indian casinos versus the handful of racinos, the answer is the contribution from racinos is not significant and never will be. Yes, New Mexico does need more tax revenue and there are many more sources to tap, but that is the subject for another column.

Remember the Chicago “Black” Sox, who were paid to fix the 1919 World Series? After that, professional sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey, all established rules and regulations to keep the sports clean, with games not impacted by gamblers’ bribes. For the most part it has been successful. Just ask Pete Rose, a superb baseball player who should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame – except he was caught betting on his own team and so was barred for life.

In New Mexico the state organized, in 1938, a Racing Commission to supervise horse racing in an attempt to prevent jockeys, trainers and horse owners from drugging horses to change the horse’s performance. And every year some trainers are caught, and others not caught, doing just that. PETA, people for the ethical treatment of animals, found:

They weigh at least 1,000 pounds, have legs that are supported by ankles the size of a human’s, and are forced to run around dirt tracks at speeds of more than 30 mph while carrying people on their backs. Racehorses are the victims of a multibillion-dollar industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries and race fixing, and many horses’ careers end in slaughterhouses. A New York Daily News reporter remarked, “The thoroughbred race horse is a genetic mistake. It runs too fast, its frame is too large, and its legs are far too small. As long as mankind demands that it run at high speeds under stressful conditions, horses will die at racetracks. …

The racinos in New Mexico, with the exception of the Downs in Albuquerque, are found close to other states so that gamblers from Texas, Colorado and other states can contribute to gambling revenues.

In summary, gambling is not essential and neither is horse racing. Tourism can and will come back when people do not have to “socially distance,” which is when there are vaccines for COVID-19 and therapeutic drugs. Of the racetracks that are members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the marketing and promotion arm of racetracks, only one New Mexico track is a member. It is a lobbying group to support gambling or the equivalent of the NRA for the gun industry.

And the number of tracks that are operating now is 112, as of 2016.

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