- Horse racing and dog racing have been in a slow decline for almost 20 years now....the only tracks that have really thrived are the ones that have slot machines. In many cases their live handle (the daily amount bet at the track by live customers) has continued to decline, but their revenues have shot up so fast that they're able to offer the biggest purses and thereby attract the best horses. Tracks like Delaware Park and West Virginia's Mountaineer Park, once considered places where local degenerates bet on broken-down nags in claiming races, are now among the wealthiest tracks around, with the best races. Fabled tracks like Pimlico, on the other hand, sometimes have trouble making ends meet.
USA Today noted in a June 2003 article that receipts from slot machines are divided about evenly in four ways:
- Payment of the operating costs and payouts to lucky gamblers,
- State taxes,
- Prize money (the purse) offered to jockeys and horse owners, and
- Profit for the racino operator.
As of 2013, racinos are legal in ten states: Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. The first racino in Pennsylvania opened in November 2006. West Virginia pioneered the concept when MTR Gaming Group was allowed to introduce video lottery terminals (VLTs) to Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in Chester. Delaware, Rhode Island, and West Virginia, three of the members of the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), jointly ran a progressive VLT game, Ca$hola, from 2006 to July 2011; the three lotteries also will offer Ca$hola's successor, MegaHits, beginning July 15, 2011.
While VLTs were somewhat successful, a November 2003 article from the Global Gaming Insider noted the real financial success story was the introduction of reel spinning slot machines in Iowa:
- In 1994, Iowa voters authorized reel spinning slot machines at Iowa racetracks (including Greyhound tracks). Polk County, the owner of a brand new, bankrupt horse track, Prairie Meadows, spent $26 million to convert the clubhouse into a casino and install 1,100 slot machines. The racino opened for business on April 1, 1995. Reel-spinning slots proved to be much more popular than video poker. In the twelve months ended March 31, 1996 machine revenues totaled $119.3 million, enabling Polk County to pay off the $27 million bond issue that paid for the clubhouse casino conversion and retire the track's initial $38.8 million bond issue 17 years early.
- With Prairie Meadows the racino came of age. The rapid transformation of a failed Iowa horse track into a highly profitable horse racing/slot gaming business was the defining moment in the marriage of pari-mutuel betting and machine gaming. For racing returned to Prairie Meadows in reinvigorated form. Purses, subsidized by revenues from slot machines, increased by a factor of six, from about $20,000 per day prior to slots to a planned $126,000 per day over the 1997 racing season. Higher purses attracted higher quality horses. This higher-quality racing was in turn exported by Prairie Meadows to other racetracks and simulcast facilities throughout North America, a high margin, profitable business. Less visibly, slot machines had a positive impact on Iowa horse breeding, a development with long-term consequences for the evolution of Iowa gambling law.
The Global Gaming Insider article also noted that the creation of the racino has led to consolidation in the ownership of racetracks, with Magna Entertainment Corporation and Churchill Downs Incorporated the largest.
In Bangor, Maine, a $131 million complex is under construction that will house, among other things, a gaming floor featuring up to 1,500 slot machines, a seven-story hotel, and a four-level parking garage. The new racino is slated to open in the summer of 2008. In Biddeford, Maine on November 2, 2010 by a vote of 59%-41% approved a referendum to relocate Scarborough Downs to Biddeford with a new Harness Racing Track/Racino Complex with Slot Machines, an Entertainment Complex and a 200 room Hotel. The plan is to have most if not all of the complex open sometime in 2012. Maine voters also approved the Oxford County Maine casino on Nov 2, 2010 also, the indications are that the Bangor Maine Racino and the possibly relocated Scarborough Downs Racino facility could also have table games as well.
There are two racino-like facilities in Arkansas. The Oaklawn Jockey Club Racing Track, a horse track, is in Hot Springs. Southland Park, a greyhound track, is in West Memphis.
- North Dakota Legislative Council staff for the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee. "Other states' horse racing tracks - North Dakota Racing Commission revenue history" (pdf). Retrieved 2007-06-20.
- Dictionary entry tracing the term back to 1995
- Gambling drives passion for ponies, A June 2003 article from USA Today
- Argument Over VLTs at Tracks Heats Up, a December 2003 article from the Detroit News