First off, no guest post Friday. I forgot to ask. And no one emailed. So, here is something I would like to know. I would like it if someone who plays thoroughbreds and harness, or has left harness to play the thoroughbreds alone wants to let us know a few things. Namely, why they stopped playing harness and went to the runners, what is stopping them from playing harness and so on. Perhaps we can run it on successive weeks. Brock, Phil, Cangamble, anyone? I think it would be neat. Contact me at the email address under my profile if you want to.
Secondly, yesterday’s piece below I was more than a little harsh I know. The NJ horse folks are simply looking for a piece of the pie, of course. However, two things caught my eye today which makes me think my post was not too tough – it was reality.
Andrew Cohen in his Wire to Wire column today said pretty much the same thing: That was have to get off our asses and fix racing by fixing racing, not looking for handouts.
The Associated Press is the world’s largest newswire service, which means that more people get their news via AP reports than from any other media organization. So when the AP writes a story about harness racing, and the AP writer asks why states have to subsidize racing, it is definitely not a good thing for our beloved sport. Exhibit A is a piece written out of Iowa by the AP’s David Witt. Here are the first three graphs:
“Day and night, gamblers crowd into the casino east of Des Moines and sit at thousands of slot machines and gaming tables--but the stands are largely empty at the complex's horse racing track. The scene at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino is repeated at many of the three dozen racetrack casinos…and the disparity in crowds and other factors have led more people to ask a question: Why do laws allowing these state-controlled casinos to operate require them to divert so much of their profits to subsidize money-losing horse tracks instead of the public programs they're also supposed to support?”
It’s a perfectly legitimate question and regular readers of this space know it’s one we’ve been grappling with for years. What’s significant about the AP story is that it’s reflective of Witt’s perception that “more” people than before are scratching their heads and wondering why racing needs and deserves “subsidies.” It’s another reason why the horse industry in New Jersey is living on borrowed time so long as these subsidies—no, let’s call them what they are: welfare — are required. In my experience, legislative change comes when enough of these AP stories get shared and absorbed by people in positions of power. We had better figure out the answers ourselves before it is too late.
The next thing brought to my attention today was something that I know annoys us. Mainly, that it is really not hard to generate excitement with bettors, although over and over again tracks tell us it is. Pure poppycock! Look what happened at The Meadowlands last night. They had a carry-over in the pick 4 from Sunday. it was not much really, a paltry $30,000, which makes a Santa Anita carryover look like lunch money. However, with just a teeny bit of work, they turned that carryover into an event. They sent out a press release saying they had a carryover, and they have a 15% rake which they promote hand in hand with it. Well guess what, people bet over $200,000 into that pool last night. Yes you read that right, $200K in a pick 4 pool, for a harness track on a Wednesday.
Memo to track execs and horseman groups: We as customers do not ask for much. Give us something like a carryover and a low price and we will bet. Offer us a deal, or something to get excited about that we might win at, we will bet. How bout a 5% superfecta? A zero rake pick 4 for a night, one night a week? Oh ya, I forgot - it can't be done.
You know what folks, we have received about $3B or more in slots cash in this business. This $30,000 carryover is a drop in the bucket compared to that. Of course we can do something. The funny thing is, half the time (as we have mentioned in speaking of lower rakes) the increase in volume can pay for it anyway! Last night bettors slugged in $200,000. The track at the 15% rake took home $30K of it. Ironically, $30,000 is what the carryover was. The carryover, even if the track seeded it themselves as a give-away (which they did not of course), paid for itself!
This is the type of thing the offshores do; and they do it every day in their businesses. That is why they are successful! Think folks; and experiment, don’t just lie down and do nothing.
Next time we see a protest in Washington or Ottawa asking for more handouts because “nothing can be done to grow racing”, tell them all that we can fix racing, we just do not try hard enough.