Friday, February 8, 2008

Gural On the Edge

Friday is guest poster day, but an update from me which you may find of interest.

A poster below commenting on my slots story talked about Vernon and Tioga being a tax issue. He is correct. My post last night may have came across as blaming Gural and the SBOA for these problems. That is not the case of course, my post was a broad one related to the business not having a proper business plan for the subsidy and not doing enough with it, and what we are seeing is many horseman and tracks (or in the Toronto case the city) wanting bigger slices, or because of lack of a centralized funding and revenue structure: fighting for tax rates.

If we hired Michelangelo to do a harness racing sculpture with slots money, we would not have anyone to tell him what we wanted sculpted and he would come in each day to find that four or five special interests came overnight into his studio armed with chisels. His masterpiece would be turned into nothing but clay chips, strewn across the floor.

Today, Jeff Gural speaks about the state of the game, the problems with Racino's, the industry and much more in a podcast on the Harness Edge. The Edge tease says "he pulls no punches". He is open and honest, and he directly states that VLT and slots revenue was passed to help racing, to give it "one more chance". He feels, like most of us, that we are blowing it. He goes on to say what he thinks will happen in the future if we don't get our act together, namely that some state will have a cash crunch and ask why we are giving money to a dying industry while firing teachers. It is something we say here on the blog: "We have to be able to stand on our own four hooves".

Anyway, the interview is here. It is 15 minutes, and it is 15 minutes that is an amazing look at the fingers in the pie racing economics, infighting, revenue models and all the short-term thinking that has plagued us for so long.

After listening, I think Jeff agrees wholeheartedly with my last paragraph in the piece in question. I think he would agree that after tax cash filtered as X% to the track, X% to horseman and X% to a central organization for North American harness racing would be a model everyone should get behind. Tracks have to be able to make money, horse owners have to race for decent purses, and lord knows we need a central organization that is funded by racino revenue to grow our fan base. This organization would of course lobby for uniform tax rules, so Vernon's problems would never have surfaced in the first place.

Getting there, with the mess the game is in, is the hard part.

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