Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter

We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.

For the about-to-be-outdated print edition of the Washington City Paper, I wrote about the introduction of Race2Riches, a new D.C. Lottery game that features animated horse races.

But, while it’s now legal to bet on cartoon horses in the District of Columbia, it’s still against the law to wager on real ponies.

And it has been illegal in the city for about a century.

The anti-racing law seemed outdated—-as outdated as this blog post even—-before the introduction of the Race2Riches; it’s really arcane now that cartoon racing is kosher.

John Scheinman, a former Washington Post turf writer and one of the most learned and habitual horseplayers I know, had this to say about the Race2Riches introduction:

“It’s a disgrace. For it to be OK to go to a carryout to bet on cartoon horses, something which requires no skill at all, but it’s illegal to bet on real races, which is a real skill, a cerebral pastime, is the height of hypocrisy. What if you could go to a bar or OTB [Off-Track-Betting] site in D.C. that served nice food and drinks, and you could bet on real racing? How great would that be for the city? But, no, instead we get this stupid animated game that just preys on the poor. This is just corrosive.”

I was all in for Scheinman even before getting his views, and, the common sensicality he displays in his pitch for DC OTB makes me an even bigger fan.

What would be the downside if the local bars and restaurants that D.C. Lottery is outfitting with Race2Riches video and betting terminals could also offer real horse racing wagering?

‘Course, that would mean D.C. would be jumping into OTB just when New York, the granddaddy in the off-track-betting realm, is out of the business.  New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., which had the contract to run the city’s OTB parlors, declared bankruptcy in 2009. When the state legislature refused to bail out the company, NYCOTB shut all its betting outlets in December 2010 and laid off its 1,200 employees. That ended four decades of  OTB betting parlors in New York.

Some New Yorkers are taking the disappearance of OTB hard. Deepti Hajela of the Associated Press threw the OTB closings in with the loss of CBGB’s and the Coney Island boardwalk arcades as big blows to the city’s cultural landscape.

From Hajela’s AP story:

Raul Alvarado, a 70-year-old retired accountant, recently lost a piece of what made New York City special to him when the Off-Track Betting parlors closed.

No more smoke-filled entryways. No more Racing Forms blowing around the sidewalk. No more eruptions of cheers to make passers-by jump…

“I’ve been playing horses for what, 30 years, maybe? It’s part of your day,” Alvarado said, closing out his account at a Manhattan parlor. “It’s a little piece of the Apple.”

What if D.C. filled the OTB void?

How would that “little piece of the Apple” taste in our city?