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Betfair - Get to Work on Horse Retirement

There is a hue and cry out there right now in horse retirement land. The Joe Drape story in the New York Times regarding the funding problems at the sports' largest placement farm has spawned dozens of comments. In most, there is a call for better support of horse retirement. Some jurisdictions, like here in Ontario for standardbreds, some of the cash from handle set aside for breeding has gone to horse retirement. But we are rare, not the norm.

One thing for sure - the industry will have trouble fixing this problem by itself. We have more hands out for money than perhaps any industry on the face of the earth. Everyone wants their slice. This, to me, is an opportunity for betfair.

Betfair has been trying to break into various fiefdoms, and they have been somewhat successful, because as WEG CEO Nick Eaves said at the Standardbred Wagering Summit a couple of years ago, "they have customers that want to bet there". Customers (whether our industry wants to believe it or not) = Power. With this leg up, they have been building coalitions throughout racing.

What sectors do they have?
  • Horseplayers: If you are a player, you love Betfair. They have lower take and a new way for you to play.
  • A TV Network that shows only one thing, horse racing
  • The ear of the industry, the quiet ones who know that what we're selling people ain't buying. You'd be surprised (despite the vitriol on industry websites) how many insiders are listening. I have spoken with some of them.
With those folks behind them you'd think they'd be alright, but the power brokers (CDI, Magna and some horsemen groups) are fighting for their slice too. They are pretty tough to overcome.

I believe one more industry sector should be added to betfair's reach - an offer to fund horse retirement farms, from some of their racetrack revenues. It's a perfect time.

If gross profit deals are constructed that are in the 25% range for betfair taking the product, I could easily see 2.5% set aside for horse retirement farms. Would this be enough to fix the problem? Clearly not, but it might wake the business up that when outsiders are there to take care of the horses they breed and race, there is a serious problem and they better get off their asses.

On the political side, how critical can those breeders and insiders be of betfair when some "UK company" steps in to take care of the horses that they're supposed to take care of?

This industry has always been political, and the status-quo old guard - through various forms of demagoguery - has perfected the tact. With a little smarts and verve, Betfair might be able to beat them at their own game.

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