Darryl Kaplan, editor of the trade magazine Trot, pens a column this month with some stark stats on the dismantling of racing.
His thesis contends that it is finally time to do something with slots money to grow the sport. We have heard these things before, however with some of the following, is it not time to stop fighting and get to work? If the past tells the story of the future, this article should be read by everyone. In Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania; And don't for a second think that this can not happen to thoroughbreds either. Over $100M was just taken from the Horse Initiative in Pennsylvania - and that was runner and trotter money.
Just days before the Quebec provincial government recently announced their end-game for harness racing in the province, they put out a release. It included this paragraph:
Let us not forget that the horse racing industry started its decline several years ago. Since 1995, the government poured more than $450 million in subsidies to support this industry. In spite of this aid, the industry continued to regress. The evolution of wagering on horse racing proves this. In 1990, $315 million was wagered and fell to $136 million in 2008.
Four hundred and fifty million dollars was put into racing. Now it is gone.
Kaplan then speaks about the lack of public outcry in Quebec for this demise of this once proud industry. As well the response from horse racing overall? Nothing.
Yet somehow month after month, meeting after meeting, we are met with industry leaders who have no problem distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in purse money without any plan to drive bettors or new patrons to the track.
Virtually all the cash that slots are used for is purses, and for breeding. Marketing, lower takeout, perks for customers like a casino gives? Nope, and the sad part is no one is even looking at Quebec and offering a new plan. Just more of the same.
And the product? How is the massive cash doing for sires stakes and other things here in Ontario to grow the sport?
A few weeks ago, I watched a five horse Gold Final at Kawartha Downs go for $170,000. One owner had four of the five horses. The single-file event had less betting on it than a $4,000 claiming race later in the program.
A Sires Stake program, mares residency, breed improvement and new ownership initiatives are all very positive things. They’re vital pieces of the puzzle. But without a product that is relevant to the consumer, harness racing is hurling head first toward its demise.
A $170,000 purse. Five horses, no betting and no customers. How can anyone think this can possibly be sustained?
Right across North America, despite mounting evidence that the sport is out of touch with the general public, the event is presented in a manner that, aside from the odd superfecta, is virtually identical to what it looked like 15 years ago.
So now, it’s just a waiting game. Waiting for courageous leadership to stand up and invest in the future. Or waiting for the next press release to take everything away.
Nice job Darryl. I wonder if anyone is listening.