Thursday, May 22, 2008

We Need Change - and Fast

Thanks to the Harness Edge, they have linked to an editorial in the Montreal Gazette entitled "Horseracing Rides off Into the Sunset"

It is maddening the government had to lose so much money before seeing the light.

To see Quebec's harness-racing industry become a financial disaster brings both relief and exasperation.

Relief because the industry had hitched its fortunes to building racetracks in conjunction with video-lottery terminals, devices that have already wrecked countless lives. That the industry's VLT revenues are far below projections means the machines are sucking fewer people dry.

But even more irritating is that this was so predictable. Harness-racing here is as out of step with the times as is dancing the Charleston.


It does continue, but you get the drift.

At the Standardbred Wagering Conference several ideas were batted about. Most seemed to think they were worth 'looking into'. I think the 'looking into' phrase should be replaced by 'looking into and getting done with a sense of urgency'.

Never before is it more apparent that this business is on a precipice. Asking for government help in terms of a subsidy has been the industry's rallying cry for a dozen years. Now, the government ain't drinking the kool-aid we've been selling.

Urgent change is needed now to put harness racing on the 21st century gambling map. Urgent is not too strong a word. Essential, urgent, important. Whatever word you want to use. It has to be done.

21st century gamblers need a reason to play with you. Marketing 101 says if you are competing in like goods you need to stick out from the crowd. A national pick 6 with a centrally funded organization to promote it is needed now. A reduction in takeouts making harness racing the lowest priced pari-mutuel business in the world is needed now. A harness racing betting exchange to attract players with something new is needed now. Scheduling of racedates and post times to ensure mass coverage is needed now.

This is needed now, not tomorrow, not in a month.

When you are standing on a precipice of disaster one can jump, stand there and jump tomorrow, or get their ass moving. I hope we see the latter.

Bettors Speak Out


Ryan Conley of the Bloodhorse surveyed some bettors with respect to the ADW mess in the States and horseman groups fighting with tracks, which has resulted in boycotting signals and all the rest.

When are these folks going to realize that they are on the precipice too?

“They have taken a great game and (expletive) on it,” said a bettor from New Jersey who also owns horses. “And they think the players will take whatever they give us. But if they don’t get it now, with the way things are going, they will find out later.”

A bettor from Canada, who estimates he wagered $3 million on horse racing last year, said about half of his money now goes through offshore outlets, which for now are spared the wrath of the signal war combatants, or bookmakers, which don’t process money through pari-mutuel pools.

“How many American businesses operate like this?” he asked. “It’s unbelievable: They don’t want my money. Getting a higher percentage of nothing is not a good return.”

He said he wants to support the racing industry, but may consider a return to sports book betting if he sees trends continuing to head south. “They’ve never had any respect for the bettors,” he said of racing. “Horse racing is so bad they don’t even know who their own customers are. Some places have lost my business.”

Players either want rebates, or have track takeout lowered closer to levels of casino betting, where the “rake” is often 10% or less.

“When online poker becomes legal, people are going to split,” the New Jersey bettor said. “The amount that the track takes out is already ridiculous. And the horsemen want more?”

The Massachusetts bettor, who feels only a powerful national commissioner’s office can rectify racing’s problems, squarely places fault at the feet of the warring horsemen and racetracks.

“I blame them both,” he said. “I blame the whole game. It’s gone too far and gotten too far out of hand. Handle will go down. And racetracks will go down.”


Give the article a read. I might look at it in depth later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rock bottom year is shaping up to be a dandy.