Horseracing and casino gambling are related activities that often appeal to a similar strata of society. This has gone on to build a bridge between casinos and racing, giving birth to the concept of “racinos,” a cross between racetracks and casinos. This combined setup usually is home to many slot machines, although in recent times, table games such as Poker, Blackjack and Roulette are also featured in some racinos.
A Brief History: Pioneered in the USA
The world first saw the concept on racinos in action when West Virginia incepted it in 1990. The MTR Gaming Group was the first to secure approval for installing video lottery machines in Chester’s Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort. This was a great inspiration to many business minds, as well as various governments. In the four years that followed, states like Rhode Island, Delaware, Louisiana and Iowa legalised racino operations.
Breakthrough by Polk County
Sometime during 1994, Prairie Meadows, a new horse track, was on the verge of bankruptcy. The owner, Polk County, made a crucial decision, which was looked at critically by market predictors at the time. Nonetheless, they took a leap of faith and spent $26 million to renovate the existing clubhouse to a functioning casino, opening for business in April 1995. The new racino had 1,100 slot machines, and these reel-spinning slots gained more spotlight than the video poker machines. And it was a startling surprise when the tally after a just a year showed revenues totalling up to $119.3 million. All debts were settled 17 years in advance!
Polk County etched its name in history with the concept of racinos. The fast sinking Iowa-based track soon became a highly profitable business, not just on the tables, but the track gained the much needed popularity as well, jumping for the 28th to the 12th position in just a matter of months, with regards to foul breeds. Ultimately, it fused the concepts of track and table gambling and betting.
The Industry Scenario
Given the amount of time that has passed since its inception, it is safe to say that the state did its bit to promote and preserve the history and culture that is the racing industry. The racing industry saw a soar in the monetary rewards paid to horse owners. This increase correlated with an increase in job vacancies and opportunities. For example, the West Virginia racing industry went on to account for $173 million in expenditure and 3,700 full-time jobs. And through this, race horse breeding farms saw a leap from 55 in 2000 to 140 in 2005. Also, it significantly impacted the volume of wagering, which increased from 20% to 40% in the same period, majorly contributed by new customers.
Having said all this, the goals have not yet been met. There continues to be a need to find a strategy to attract more customers. Significant research in required to tap the potential of racinos and to convert the same monetarily.
Growth of the Racino Concept
Even after two decades, the concept of racinos have not picked up around the world as much as experts had predicted. Although Canada was at par with the United States, opening its first racino in 1992, it has not picked up the pace that USA has set.
In Europe, the concept was only infused in the dawn of the 21st century and to that end they are still testing the waters. So far, only Austria and the United Kingdom have legalised racinos. In the continent that is home to the casino capital of the world, Macau, the Philippines is that only country to have seen success with racinos.
What this industry lacks is the reception that the casino havens around the world experience. When they offer so much more in terms of pomp, splendour and luxury, racinos offer tough competition that is almost impossible to match. The cities that are home to these hybrid concepts are in need of a much needed tourism boost and economic development to attract the high rollers.