Florida Racetrack owner calls Pokies Expansion ‘Shortsighted’ solution
Some of the biggest legislative items circulating Florida’s government offices right now have to do with authorized forms of gambling. The Seminole Tribe is looking to shore up a ratified compact to maintain exclusivity for banked table games, while pari-mutuels are hoping to operate pokies with or without the need to host live horse and/or dog races.
As these bills are being debated, track owners have pled the case that races simply aren’t bringing in enough money to sustain business, claiming that poker machines – or slots machines, as Americans call them – are their only salvation. But not all pari-mutuels agree with that plan – at least, not in the long term.
All across the globe, the gambling industry has experienced a decline in pokies appreciation. The cause has been chalked up to a lack of interest from millennials – potential gamblers in the 21-34 age range. They simply don’t find excitement in the monotony of spinning a few reels and crossing their fingers.
Table games, which offer more strategic decision making, are considered more attractive to millennials, but still not enough to keep casinos rolling in the mounds of revenue they experienced in the past. Analysts have pointed to skill-based games as the key to a lucrative future, but that future is still at least a year away according to experts.
The majority of Florida’s horse and dog track owners are adamant that, if current legislation is passed, the poker machines will be their saving grace. After all, voters in several counties agreed to a referendum, showing their approval for pokies expansion.
But one man – 38 year old Izzy Havenick – doesn’t see the situation quite the same way as his older generation of piers.
Havenick is Florida’s youngest pari-mutuel owner. He operates tracks in Lee and Miami-Dade counties, and is the Vice President of his family-owned Magic City Casino in Florida. His age puts him close to the category of millennials the state’s gambling operators are seeking to reach, thus his understanding of the situation could be much more realistic than all others.
No Salvation for Pari-Mutuels
“I don’t believe pari-mutuels can be saved,” Havenick said flatly. “It’s slow. It’s boring. If you live in Florida, it’s hot and rainy. Most people under 40,” explained Havenick, “they will never go outside and look at the racetrack. Unless there is some way to make dog, horse racing or jai-alai exciting again, I don’t see the pari-mutuels surviving as tracks.”
The track operator admitted, “maybe I’m the young, naïve one in the group”. But in the same token, he said he just might be “the only one who sees the world differently than they do”. The way he sees it, “we might be mortgaging the future to save ourselves in the present.”
Havenick is concerned that trading a fast-dying industry for a slowly-fading one is no real solution at all. “In 10 years I don’t know if we will look back and say this was the right fight to have or not.”
Regrettably, he added that “right now our only salvation is to have these machines. Do I think it’s shortsighted? Yes. But the problem is we’re not being given much of a choice,” said Havenick. “Our hand is being forced.”