Core Points of The Pari-Mutuel Industry and EGD’s
dropping $300,000 in handle annually.62 One example is the Wichita Greyhound Park in Kansas, which experienced a 22-percent decline in attendance and a 16-percent decline in betting between 1995 to 1996.
Jai alai, the smallest segment of the pari-mutuel industry, involves players hurling a hard ball against a wall and catching it with curved baskets in a venue called a “fronton.” With a handle of approximately $275,000 annually, Jai alai accounts for less than 2 percent of the total handle among the three pari-mutuel sectors. Originating in Spain, the sport of jai alai was brought to the United States by a group of wealthy Bostonians.63
Jai alai has experienced a dramatic decline in overall revenues over the last decade. Jai alai hit its peak in the early 1980’s with over $600 million wagered annually.64 By 1996, the total amount wagered was less than $240 million.65 Florida, once home to more than 10 frontons, remains the leader in the industry with only 6 facilities throughout the state. Other states with jai alai include Rhode Island and Connecticut. Efforts to rejuvenate the industry include Florida’s state legislature passing a law to change the taxing structure on jai alai profits, and a recently proposed bill in that state to allow electronic gambling devices at all pari-mutuel venues, including frontons.
The issues facing pari-mutuel wagering have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Legalizing slot machines and other EGD’s is a highly contentious issue throughout the parimutuel industry. Even with the increased availability to racing information and account wagering, the pari-mutuel industry is facing economic problems. Industry officials point to the expansion of different forms of gambling as the reason for the downward financial turn. They say that competing for gambling dollars is making it increasingly difficult to maintain wagering pools large enough to pay for the cost of running the races. In response, several members of the pari-mutuel industry have fought for and received the opportunity to provide for alternative forms of gambling at racetracks. Presently, several states¾such as Delaware, Rhode Island, South Carolina and West Virginia¾permit EGD’s at the racing venues. Proponents of installing EGD’s point to increased revenues raised at the racetracks from both the machines and from larger number of patrons betting on the actual races.66 Other states have fought off the battle for increasing forms of gambling at pari-mutuel venues and are looking for alternatives to keep the industry alive within their state. Recently, Maryland provided $10 million in subsidies to the state’s ailing horseracing industry to stave off another round of campaigning to provide slot machines at racetracks.67
EGD’s and the Pari-Mutuel Industry
A separate area of controversy regarding EGD’s—and an example of how they can blur the former distinctions regarding gambling—are efforts by many dog track, horse track, and jai alai owners to install them at their facilities. Proponents in the pari-mutuel industry contend that they seek a “level playing field” that will allow them to compete with State lotteries and Indian gambling facilities. They argue that the EGD’s will draw larger crowds to racetracks and thereby save existing jobs connected with racing