Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Argument Doping: Billy the Greek injects his case for slots at tracks with misinformation

Sports writer Billy Reed, who we have dubbed "Billy the Greek" for his frequent forays into the gambling issue, is at it again. Defending the industry that has been known to dope horses so they'll run faster than their competition, is doping his own arguments, hoping that'll help them defeat the bigger, stronger, and faster arguments with which they are in competition.

Today Billy further widens the Veracity Gap between what the horse tracks claim to be true and reality by writing about Ron Geary, the owner of Ellis Park, which Geary promised would go out of business this fall if the slots-at-tracks bill was defeated in the special session a couple months back. Well, it was defeated, and at first Geary looked to be as good as his word, announcing after the vote that this was it.

But then Geary carefully began moving back to the distant possibility that his track would stay open, to maybe seeing some hope that it might stay open, to thinking that, if things went well it could stay open, to talking about renewing his license for next year. He just couldn't compete with racinos across state lines, you see. But Ellis, it turns out, has had a better meet than expected, attracting the likes of Sheik Mohammed Al Maktoum of Dubai, who is one of the people who would have received a bailout under Billy's bill.

While Geary is carefully edging toward reapplying for his license, Billy the Greek still waxes apocalyptic:

But he needs help from the General Assembly. He needs the level playing field that slots will provide every bit as much as the state treasury needs the new revenue that would come from expanded gaming.

With Geary, saving Ellis is an affair of the heart, certainly, but it’s also a matter of business. With expanding gaming, Ellis can evolve into an important year-round entertainment venue in an area where competition for the leisure dollar is limited.

Without it, however, Ellis has no shot to survive. And if Ellis folds, Turfway Park could be next. That’s how important it is for our elected leaders to look beyond their narrow self-interests and do the right thing by our state’s signature industry.

Billy apparently hasn't been paying attention to the Ron Geary Shuffle, that is moving the track owner closer to filing his license. Billy just doesn't understand why the state's General Assembly doesn't pass the slots at tracks bill:

It seems a simple request that should be easy to accommodate. But, as we’ve seen, nothing is easy when it gets into the clutches of our elected leaders in Frankfort. They have a well-documented ability to take the clearest of issues and cloud them beyond recognition.

You mean, like, loading the bill up with school building projects exclusively for the districts of lawmakers who promised to vote for the bill and saying that its "for the cheeeldren"? That well-documented ability?

And here's Billy talking about the mean ol' Republicans in the Senate who voted the bill to turn race tracks into casinos down:
This is mainly because Senate President David Williams, a regular patron of the gambling boats across the river, has put his ego and political ambitions above the will of the voting public.

... Beshear squandered his mandate for reasons still unclear. He failed to get an expanded-gaming bill out of the Democrat-controlled House in the 2008 general session and needed a change of House speakers ... Greg Stumbo replacing Jody Richards – and this summer’s special session to advance a bill to the Senate, where Williams snuffed it out without even allowing debate on the Senate floor.
Not allowing a debate on the floor? Billy should know better than this. The bill was voted down fair and square in committee. Bills that get voted down in committee don't get hearings on the floor. That's how the process works. What Billy really means is that the bill didn't get the special treatment it got in the House, where leadership bought votes to get it passed.

In truth, the bill was sent to the very same committee that passed it in the House: Appropriations and Revenue. That is not only unusual, it is routine in the legislature. David Williams didn't have to lift a finger to kill the bill. It died all by its lonesome self without anyone engaging in a single unusual procedural move.

If Billy the Greek and his veracity-challenged allies in the horse racing industry want to say that Williams did something wrong, then tell us what it is. So far, they have only hurled vague charges about sleazy tactics. What sleazy tactics? Name one. Just one.

There's about as much chance of Billy producing one as there is for Geary to close down Ellis Park.

And speaking of Geary again, he is hopeful about the special election to replace State Sen. Charlie Borders, who was lured away from his Senate seat for a cushy seat on the Public Service Commission (did somebody mention sleaze?):
“I’m going to be watching that election very closely,” Geary said. “If the right person wins, that would give me hope.”
I'm sure it would. I wonder how much money Geary and his poverty-stricken colleagues in the horse industry have bellied up in that race for Robin Webb.

And the Veracity Meter really went wild when we scanned this passage in Billy's post:
We need legislators who grasp this important distinction but it’s a harder sell than it has to be. How can you discuss the morality of an issue with knuckleheads who can’t grasp the hard, cold facts of what the horse industry means to Kentucky – an estimated 100,000 jobs, millions in tax revenue, and the preservation of countless acres of farmland.
100,000 jobs? This myth is so discredited even Keeneland CEO Nick Nickleson has admitted it's no good. The company that slots advocates say they got it from, Deloitte, says its only about half that, and one racing organization says its even less.

The tracks are going to lose this fight and they're going to look seedy doing it. That's what happens when you don't tell the truth.


KyCobb said...


Did you see the story about the Ball State study which showed that racinos produce very low paying jobs that actually reduce the average rate of pay in surrounding communities?

Martin Cothran said...


Yeah. Thanks. I'll be blogging that later today.