Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"We're Not Down as Much as They Are"

If you get into a discussion about handle at a track the last dozen years or so, inevitably, someone will probably say "we're not down as much as they are."  They'll show their numbers, say, down 38%, and then show another track or jurisdiction, that's down 44%.

Take that.

Thomas Edison said, "We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb." That's a pretty poignant quote about innovation. Successes come from failures, and if you never have a failure, you will likely never have a success either.

The culture of "we're not down as much as they are" is as innovation stifling as a Communist regime. It's throttling; it's an albatross to the sport. It's an out when the numbers go bad.

Today in Thoroughbred commentary, the different culture in the UK was examined. As you all know, things are a little different over there. Since the 14th century or sooner, betting was happening and people were trying to find ways to make money from it. When horse racing betting came around a couple of centuries later, racing had to fit into that predetermined betting system and compete. They were not given a slice of the market - and a pari-mutuel monopoly - to do with what they want.

With that came a little more resiliency, a little more innovation; a focus on price, on the way racing is presented, and in betting shops; alternate revenues from sponsorship or live attendance. It created a betting system where, if you shop around, you can get 4% win takeouts, and no one will say "you can't do that, we have to put on the show." It created festivals, a system where races go off every ten minutes at a handful of tracks to maximize reach and revenues from the off track audience. Its revenues come from taxes on gross profits, where if the pie grows the business all makes more money.  It created a betting exchange.

The betting ecosystem there is fundamentally stronger because of competition, and the rules and laws of business. It's by no means perfect - they go through issues just like any other business - but its foundation is built on dollars and cents, and that matters.

The statement, "we're not down as much as they are" does not elicit sympathy in the UK. That quote would probably find you in the unemployment line, because if you are focused on how you aren't growing, rather than what steps you can put in place to grow, they don't want you around.

Racing across the pond has created a lot of bad light bulbs, but what they've learned from it helped them create some light over an industry for hundreds of years, in the most competitive gambling climate in World history.

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