Larry The Sports Cat
Larry The Sports Cat

What’s in the Litter Box Today?

Emerald Downs has something for everyone!



(Katlama, Wa) Hey Gang! Larry the Sports Cat back with a mid-summer thought for you after spending an awesome day at Emerald Downs. If you have noticed we are keeping busy this summer by covering things outside of our usual beat of High School sports with stories and broadcasts of NWPL women’s Semi-Pro soccer games and racing action at Emerald Downs the lone remaining thoroughbred race track in Washington State.

Now some would maybe question mixing covering horse racing with a site that focuses so much on High School sports and that is a fair question but you may not like my answer. In my view singling out Horse Racing as some kind of gambling activity only is not only hypocritical but simply unfair and untrue.

First of all, Emerald Downs has not only been the 1st real job for many kids in the Auburn area, they have no doubt helped fund many kids’ college tuition with the job opportunities. They also encourage programs like 4-H and those interested in agriculture and a piece of the action goes toward funding County Fairs.

The one thing I admire about the Horse Racing Industry is right from the get-go they were honest about the fact that gambling and sports go hand in hand whether it’s legitimate, book making or a friendly wager between Governor’s over a Super Bowl match-up.

It’s interesting to me that some people will have such a negative reaction to horse racing over the betting issue without learning more of how it works. First of all, in horse racing it’s pari-mutuel wagering which means horse racing is gambling like you do with your buddies at a home poker game. There is no ‘house” where you are playing against a casino like in blackjack or other casino games. The track is simply the pot holder and divides up the money to those with winning tickets. The track does take a small percentage of each bet up front and the rest is then paid back to the winners.

The track has no interest in who wins or loses in a race. They get the same amount from each bet prior to the race being run. Odds by the way, indicate only what your fair share of the pot is if you win. So the more people who pick the same horse the more they have to divide up the pot. Betting a horse where only a few of you think will win will get you a much bigger share of the pot because there are fewer people to split it with.

Now the awesome thing about Emerald Downs is that it is more than just racing. The track hired a company years ago to ask questions to the public both at the track and in other public areas. Many of the questions were of the nature of how did you hear about the track, have you ever been and so on. One of the questions was why do you come to Emerald Downs?DSCN8099

At the time I was doing some work for the track (sand quality consultant/inspector) when I heard they were going to ask this question and I thought it was stupid. Of course you go to the horse races to bet right? WRONG! 49% said they came to the track to SEE the horses and enjoy the setting while 47% said they came to wager. The other percent was those who came with a group or for another event not related to racing.

Emerald Downs has focused on the family friendly aspect from the start. They built a park where on many Sunday’s offer FREE kids activities like bounce toys, games, face painting and more. Over the years folks like the Pirate and Parrots show, clowns and pony rides have entertained thousands of kids.

Food Trucks in the Park
Food Trucks in the Park

Emerald Downs also hosts a ton of other events. So far in July there has been a huge Fireworks show on July 3rd, an Equine Art Show, Ladies night, wine and chocolate festival, Food Truck weekend this past week was huge and on Sunday they had a big car show. Still to come more family days, college night and in the parking lot the Jim Marsh 3-on-3 Basketball Classic and a whole lot more. Check out their event calendar here.

Unlike a baseball game or football game you are not relegated to your seat for the entire time. Both you and your kids can walk around, go see the horses up close, bring in a picnic lunch, get some ice cream while enjoying some of the other activities while Dad sits there enjoying a cold brew just like you would at a baseball game. The only difference is if Dad or Mom want to place a little wager say $2 on one of the competitors it’s legal and most importantly it’s ok in this sport. They don’t make you feel like you’re a criminal for putting a little rooting interest on the horse you’re cheering for.

Now the old stereotype of race tracks has you picturing an old guy with a cigar, chugging a beer. The cost of food will cost you an arm and a leg to come to the track, right? And when you do you will have to breathe in all that smoke and it just won’t be pleasant. If that’s your perception then maybe this will surprise you. this was copy and pasted from the Emerald Downs website:

Rules & Regulations
For the safety of patrons and horses, we ask that you please observe the following rules and regulations when visiting Emerald Downs:

Alcohol: No alcoholic beverages or glass containers may be brought to any area of the racetrack including parking areas.

Other Food and Beverages: You are welcome to bring personal food and non-alcoholic beverages to the racetrack. No glass containers are permitted and all beverages must be factory sealed. Small, hand-held coolers that fit easily under the stadium seats are permitted on the Track Level (2nd floor), Grandstand Level (3rd floor) and in the Park. No coolers or outside food allowed above the 3rd floor. Barbecues or grills are not allowed in any area.

We ask that you avoid bringing any objects that are likely to frighten the horses. The following items are prohibited: Balloons, Balls, Frisbees, Tents, Awnings, Whistles or other noise-making devices, Drones. Table umbrellas are only permitted in the Park area and must be placed a safe distance away from fences and railings.

Smoking: Smoking is permitted in designated areas only on Track Level, the Park, and north end balconies on levels 3 and 5.

Hmmm, so the park area where all the kids are running around having an awesome time there is no smoking, you can bring in your own food and beverage and they have tables you can use with an umbrella to block the sun on hot days.

Let’s compare, a day at Emerald Downs to say a Mariner’s game. For a family of 4 to go to a Saturday afternoon ball game if you want to sit on the 100 level it’s a minimum of $50 per ticket. If you wanted to sit in the nose bleed section you’re looking at $15 each. Parking is what $10-$50 depending on where you park. You can not bring in any beverages of any kind but you can bring in food but not in a hard cooler and it has to be wrapped and things like apples must be quartered. Don’t forget a program, scorecard and some souvenirs will add to your “experience”.

Once you are there you have your seat assignment, with some entertainment like  follow the ball games and trivia on the big screen between innings.  Your total cost could easily reach $300 with the ultra thrifty maybe getting by for $100 but I doubt it.

Now let’s take that same $100 and go to Emerald Downs. Admission is $7 for adults, free for kids 17 and under. Parking you could pay $7 for preferred or $10 for valet parking or park in the free lot. You will have to ride the free tram to the gates but the kids love to ride the tram. You can bring a big cooler with both food and drinks with the few limitations mentioned above and seating in the park is free. You will want at least a race program or racing form for those more experienced, that’s $2.50 for a program and $6.50 for the form. So now you are in with a program and form, food and seating for a total of less than $25.

So that thrifty $100 budget you wanted to stick too leaves you $75 for souvenirs, or an ice cream treat which are priced far less than you will find at a major league baseball park or maybe a cold brew. Yep the beer is expensive but saving on everything else you don’t feel guilty about having one. That still leaves you money to make a few bets. And guess what? You just might win! Maybe you don’t win at all the most you’re down is your $100. Maybe you win a few races and you leave with $50 of your hundred, or like yesterday maybe your kids birthdays happened to be the numbers to a winning trifecta bet you made for 50-cents and you collected $,3,450! (yes that happened on Sunday)

Oh and if the kids get tired and have had enough the only thing you’ll miss out on are the races that are run after you leave. You won’t have to wonder about the final of the races you’re there for, you already know.

The point to all this is don’t buy into a stereotype that hasn’t been around in Washington State for 20+ years when Emerald Downs first opened. So before condemning horse racing because they are honest about wagering on their sport as you head off to play fantasy football, bet in a Super Bowl pool or make a bet with a friend on the big game or send money with a friend because they are headed to Vegas or your weekly or monthly “low stakes” poker game give the stereotype a rest.  Emerald Downs is truly a fan and family friendly facility and sport and there is nothing wrong with folks who enjoy a fun day at the track.


By paulb

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