Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We Knew What to Do.... in 1935

Cangamble weeds through old-time articles and sees that takeout was a hot topic. It turns out, that in 1935 many in racing wanted takeouts dropped. The kicker is, they wanted to drop track takes from 8% to 6%.

The California legislature is considering an amendment to its parimutuel betting law reducing the takeout allowed the tracks from eight per cent to six. A Los Angeles assemblyman introduced it, but the change is being opposed by William P Kyne and John W Marchbank operators of the Bay Meadows and Tanforan tracks, who say they cannot operate successfully if the reduction is made at this time.

When six percent was balked at, some in the industry tried to hold firm the 10% number overall:

"We have apparently failed to get across to state legislators and other public officials the message that a takeout from parimutuel pools of more than 10 or 11 per cent is not only unfair to the patrons but also is unwise and detrimental to the long term health of the sport."

It seems the lobbyists for "fingers in the pie economics" were alive and well 75 years ago, but at least some in racing were still trying.

Thus we get back to this familiar and disturbing fact of racing. This is the fact that in the power politics of racing between the horsemen the organized employees. the racing associations, and the financially hard pressed state governments, every element of racing is able to force a larger slice of the pie for himself, except the racing fan, the all important lover and patron of the sport, who in the last analysis, is the man who keeps the show on the road.

Fast forward to today. Some Pennsylvania tracks have a 31% takeout rate. Two years ago at a conference, I heard nothing about takeout; only that if it was lowered to anything below 20% it would result in "destroying racing".

We knew what to do 75 years ago. We knew that raising prices would destroy racings growth. We knew it, and we did the opposite.

Lotteries did not destroy racing. Neither did slots. Neither did the lack of TV coverage, or excessive whipping, or offshore bookmakers, or lack of horse population, or whatever else is trotted out by many. These articles show, beyond any reasonable argument, that racing destroyed itself.

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