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Editorial: NYRA should leave college students alone

Editorial: NYRA should leave college students alone

Don't they have enough financial worries without gambling?

Teens go off to college to learn about all sorts of things — both in and out of the classroom. Gambling may be one of them, and probably one that parents and college officials wished they didn’t learn about. But thanks to twhe New York Racing Association, the odds of them doing so in the Capital Region are about to be greatly enhanced.

NYRA announced this week plans for its first-ever College Day promotion at Saratoga Race Course Sept. 4, shortly after the school year begins for a handful of area colleges. The promotion will feature raffles for prizes that include $1,000 in “tuition money” after every race. It’s a nice prize, but one we hope NYRA will award as a check made out directly to the school’s bursar, lest any of it get diverted to the $50 window on the way back to campus.

Sorry, but we think the idea of formally introducing college kids to the excitement and beauty of thoroughbred horse racing, as one NYRA official characterized the gambit, is a bad one. That is, unless you’re a race track desperate to fatten your bottom line.

Even if the track is the grande dame of the state’s racing program, and even if the state stands to win if (when) the students lose, NYRA should let them find out about Saratoga on their own, without any enticements.

College kids have enough financial worries — at least most of them do — that the state shouldn’t be going out of its way to add to them. And that’s what’s bound to happen.

Yes, some kids will win that day; even those who’ve never gambled before. Yes, some kids will bet conservatively, or not at all. Saratoga is, after all, an attractive place, with more going for it than just gambling. But nobody should kid themselves: Saratoga is still a race track, where gambling is the primary attraction. It is inevitable that for some college kids, the day will be a financial disaster.

Even worse will be if others manage to get bitten by the gambling bug that day, and develop a lifelong problem as a result. Indeed, recruiting a new “class” of gamblers appears to be NYRA’s ulterior motive here, and it’s a pretty shameful one.

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