Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Building a Fence & Wayne Gretzky

I went over to my brother in laws a bit ago. The backyard fence was tattered. It was kind of short, falling apart and the wood was rotting. So, after chatting with his neighbour they decided to pool some cash, do a bit of work and get a new one built - for both their benefit. One of them has a pool so the privacy is nice, and one has a hot tub, so likewise. Also they, with a bit of pooled resources would probably increase their property values. After a day of work we got the job done. A brand-spanking new fence.

In my post below I outlined Prairie Meadows and the sabre-rattling going on there, asking the business tough questions about slot money, and if the subsidy would continue. I would hope that opens our eyes that this money, in the future, might be cut and this business would be forced to make some tough decisions.

It seems in our business there is a sense of entitlement. I assume it is because the business has been a monopoly for so, so long. Some people seem to believe that slot money is a god given right, that it is theirs. It is not theirs, it is the business's money. Money that was supposed to be used to grow.

It is time to lose that mentality and build a fence, 50-50, with horse owners and tracks as partners. Each side contributes and a hard budgeted business plan is borne. It is a plan to grow wagering, grow the sport and help bring it into the mainstream. People are not hired based on who they know, they are hired by looking at a resume. They are not stacked with patronage appointments or old-time thinkers, they are stacked with business people with track records who have a passion for racing, and understand its 21st century challenges.

So, time to wave the magic wand again. Poof: Instead of 10% of slots money going to purses and 10% going to the tracks in Ontario, it is now a "Wayne Gretzky". 9% each. Out of the $300M annually given to the business in Ontario from slots, $30M is siphoned off to a central organization. This organization has one mission: to grow the sport.

With a $30M yearly budget here is what can (or might) be done for racing in this province:

1. Leaks on the wagering pool would be eliminated. We see a lot of percentages taken out of bettors money for 'things'. We see common pooled wagering that is not so common pooled at all. We take this money and fund these areas with it, or cut them. This helps the customers. When the UK took a tax off betting, betting went up and they could compete.

2. Two types of marketing plans could be established. One, a grassroots one to get people out to the track and grow the sport that way. Two, a province wide racing marketing plan to try and grow it that way.

3. Player rewards could be increased. Several perks would be detailed and studied. These perks would appreciate the player.

4. Industry issues can be studied and tackled.

i) We all know vet bills are pricey, especially for medications. Is there a better way to distribute legal medications that save horse owners money, which decreases cost of production and makes owning more attractive?

ii) Race dates, post times and all the rest are overlapped many times. Is there is better way to schedule race dates and post times to maximize betting?

iii) Drivers are doing well - very well. Some can make upwards of $1M a year driving horses with little increases in costs to do their jobs, while many other people are starving working all day, battered by increases in costs and low margins. Should their mix be changed?

iv) Can a judges school where universally accepted racing rules are followed to the letter be established?

v) Better distribution and scheduling of stakes races?

vi) Should "meets" be established for the summer months to generate fan interest?

vii)Should a "c" track circuit be established, so higher handle tracks can get better horses, but mom and pop horses can still race; boosting overall handles?

viii) Should slots money be pooled provincially and then distributed to tracks for purses on a business case basis?

ix) Owners and bettors detest the endless appeals process in racing. Can that be changed?

x) What do customers want? Have we really studied it in a scientific way?

On and on and on we could go.

5. The organization at the end of the year, because it is run by a successful business person, reports to everyone, in a cost-benefit fashion. This is no "throw mud on the wall" organization and hope to grow the sport. The results are measurable, measured and reported, just like a real business.

That obviously just scratches the surface, and most of those ideas are out there for illustration - simply put, they are off the top of my head. But the salient point I hope gets through: We could be doing so much with all that money, so much to grow the game.

It takes leadership and partnership.

We have to build a fence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At this juncture we have little choice. There is no other way. Money has been squandered for years, with little or no results to show for it. With few exceptions, the tracks have continued to let the facilities decline and the horsepeople are presenting an unclean product. We are surrounded by short-sightedness with no real watchdog at the helm.

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