What is racino?

A racino is a combination of horse racing and casino gambling. It can also be a racetrack with slot machines on the premises. It’s very popular in the US, but not only there. At any rate, it’s most popular there and has a long history.

Most states have budget deficits. In the early 90s, state governments tried to raise funds by creating what was the prototype of a racino. They launched riverboat casinos in six states in the Midwest. Today, slot machines at racetracks are having a heyday. The government is expanding gambling to rake in tax money alongside normal means of raising money such as sales tax, income tax, excise duty, and corporate tax.

Today, bettors on horse racing can go to any track any day (pending pandemic restrictions). They can also bet on horses in faraway locales. Slot machines are very popular and the most successful racinos tend to be those with them on their premises. In some cases, the daily amounts wagered have declined, but revenue continues to rise, so they’ve been able to attract the best horses.

Why don’t governments ban slot machines at racetracks? There are several reasons for this. At racetracks, gambling already exists. Lawmakers aren’t worried about being accused of “expanding gambling” although that’s exactly what they’re doing. About a decade ago, states like Kentucky and Maryland felt like they were protecting a sacred industry. Kentucky is famous for the Kentucky Derby. The state considers itself the capital of thoroughbred racing and most horse breeding is done there. Maryland is renowned for its racing stock. Horse breeding is a prime agricultural business there.

When racinos came into being, there was the attitude that horseracing tracks were easier to control and more civilized than casinos, especially Las Vegas-style ones. However, the introduction of slot machines attracted a completely different clientele.

There’s also the attitude that jockeys and racetrack owners have been playing on an uneven field. Tracks are impacted as soon as an Indian casino appears within a radius of 200 miles. The vast majority of Indian casinos don’t pay the state government any tax, while dog and horse tracks pay more than 15%. They’re leveling the field by giving tracks the slot machines.

Another issue involves the different types of gamblers. Slot machine gamblers believe in pure chance. It’s like playing the lottery – as fast as you can pull the handle or push the button. It’s a primitive pastime where gambling is concerned. It’s quite different with people who bet on horse racing. They tend to be intellectual gamblers, who spend a long time doing their homework on the horses that will compete in a given race. The ideas of a horse racing bettor wagering on a slot and that of a slot player betting on a horse are both absurd. These are two completely different personality types.

According to economics professor Bill Eadington:

If you have slot machines, you don’t really have a race track anymore. You have slot machines that happen to be located in a place where horses run in circles.

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