In Washington, Numbers Made Slots Bad Bet

Voters in Washington state rejected an initiative that would have allowed the expansion of electronic slot machines--only permitted in tribal casinos--to other locations, including Emerald Downs. But a top track official said it's the best thing that could have happened.

Results from the Nov. 2 election showed 39.4% of voters approved the expanded gaming measure, sponsored by Tim Eyman, and 60.6% rejected it, according to the Washington Secretary of State.
Had Initiative 892 passed, revenue from slot machines would have been used to cut state property taxes, while a small portion would have been used to address problem gambling in the state.

Under the measure, only 77 of 18,225 slots would have been allotted to Emerald Downs. The rest would have been distributed to 1,975 other establishments across the state, which could have stirred up competition for customers and wagering dollars.

Emerald Downs president Ron Crockett said the rejection of the measure was "the best thing that could've happened to horse racing."

The board of directors of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association backed Crockett's position. The organization had the reviewed the numbers and voted unanimously to oppose it. The cost of purchasing, installing, and operating the machines against projected revenue would have resulted in a net annual loss of almost $500,000 to the racing industry, the WTBA concluded.

"We're the only (racing) facility in the state, so it would hurt us locally, it would hurt us at all of our satellites, it would hurt purses, it would hurt owners, it would hurt everyone, and we would have had a negative cash flow," Crockett said. "We were very much against it because of the structure of the bill."

Crockett noted the success in other racing jurisdictions with slot machines is tied to the number of machines, which is in the thousands compared to the 77 slots Emerald Downs would have received.

Indian tribes, which fund their governments with slots revenue, bitterly opposed the measure and poured more than $5 million into a campaign against the measure. It was the most money ever spent in Washington to defeat an initiative, The Seattle Times reported.