Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday Wrap

Well each day gives us news. News that tends, more often than not, to make ones head spin.

In the Bloodhorse today, there is the synopsis on wagering growth (shrinkage actually) in 2007. Handle was down in 2007, while purses were up. There seems to be some sort of mystery why. I don't think you have to be Columbo to figure out why, but some seem perplexed.

“I don’t know what to make of the (wagering) trends of the last few years,” Marzelli said. “Yes, they are flat. But the questions our industry can’t answer are: Why are they flat? Are we suffering leakage? Are people betting off-shore with bookmakers, or in other ways that are not permitted under U.S. laws? Are they turning to other sports because our sports are not competitive?


These questions were asked in about the year 2001 and even before then. They were answered in large part by an industry paid for study by Wil Cummings in 2004. Easy answer: Wagering is down because less people are playing racing. The offshore stuff I thought had died down due to the simple fact you can not bet offshore in the USA any longer.

How about some more of the same old? Here you go, brace yourself.

“Handle was steady in 2007, while auction sales also remained steady after an all-time record year in 2006. The robust growth in purses was clearly aided by revenue from racinos, but we are optimistic that increased purses will lead to increased handle as these higher purses translate into a more attractive racing product.”

Yes, the old 'increased purses will make people want to bet' argument, is still alive and well in 2007. Has this man been to Ontario?

I can't spend more time on that story, it hurts my head.

Andrew Cohen's
wire to wire is up today. It has some comments on the Ledford/Rucker situation. He is fairly in tune with our thoughts here - namely something must be done to respect our sport, and respect the customer in racing. He has some fan and owner reaction at the bottom of the piece. To me they accurately represent what I have heard from you on the blog, and on harness chat boards. A poster replied below to the blog noting that he does not much care, because he believes the sport is what it is, and he factors such things into his handicapping. I do not disagree with him at all actually. Many people do that. However, is this something we can use as a building block to grow? Is it something we should be proud of? Not me. Let's not settle for it. Let's fix it and make a better product for fans and new owners to feel good about.

The Meadowlands and New Jersey racing is falling on hard times. The story is somewhat ominous. People want a new subsidy to help New Jersey racing. There is some hand-wringing about tracks like Chester and Yonkers stealing Meadowlands horses and that we can not compete.

Wow, that's new news?

In the past, handicappers - me you and a pile of race watchers said that when Yonkers got slots, the Meadowlands would have to be in a position to change their model to compete - in business it is done every day: Read, recognize and respond. We also said this is a perfect job for a commissioner. That is, with the Meadowlands the flagship track for harness racing and the track that attracts the largest bettors and handles, it needs to have itself protected by the business - in a centralized, revenue maximizing way. That was said over a year ago. Now one year later we hear some sort of response, and the response of course is about more subsidies.

It is not dissimilar to my take, and others, in Ontario. Woodstock handles are anemic, so are Dresden Raceway's. But, last year there was a strike by horsemen for more race dates. More race dates at tracks that no one bets! Make sense to you? No, not to me either. Amazingly, try to bring up pooling slot money and distributing it from a central organization by diverting slots cash from lower handle tracks to higher ones. This allows for a consolidating business model to grow the game by increasing the bet. You will get looked at like you have six heads.

Funny, I started the day refreshed and happy. Reading some racing news changed that in a hurry.

Tomorrow, I promise..... an optimistic piece. I will find one somewhere to chat about. Really, I promise.

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