I watched today's news story about New Jersey racing whereby the Governor of the state wants no tax money to support racing. As much as we may want to, it is difficult to not agree with much of his logic. Casino money has been used as a golden goose for a long time. Places that had it could; because they were one of the few jurisdictions that had gaming.
But not any longer. Virtually every state, unable or unwilling to make fiscal decisions, wants more money. And to get it, they have passed some sort of gaming.
In neighboring New York state, arguably the worst run state in the union, slots are coming to the Big A. This should bring in piles of money and help the horse population in that state. As we have seen with Yonkers and Chester's decimation of the Meadowlands, Acqueduct will surely lay claim to Monmouth and other nearby non-slots tracks. No matter what Jersey does, they are sure to be toasted.
So the Governor seems to be doing the only sane thing - asking for racing to stand on its own four hooves.
This is why I believe it is extremely important for Ontario racing to do the same thing and do it right now. Get out ahead of the train. We should be moving forward, because the inevitable day is coming where horse racing will be ranked way down the list in terms of priority for governments and everyone else with a finger in the pie. We can learn a great deal from Jersey.
The RDSP (racing development and sustainability plan) is one step that should be used to start to row our own boat. It represents what Jersey should have done ten years ago, when sharp industry watchers were warning of the coming storm. If Jersey had an RDSP then, they might not be where they are now; but there is no excuse for a place like Ontario (and Pennsylvania which is more wasteful with their windfall than we are in Ontario) not to roll now. In addition, New York racing could do the right thing too, before slots are even turning, and make sure a portion of the revenue for profits and purses goes right back to the customer. Ontario and Pennsylvania did not do that (PA has over 30% takeouts on super exotics for example and even the most degenerative gambler would not play there without a sizeable rebate) and now they are paying for it dearly with lost handles. A lemon can be squeezed, but a dried lemon is something you throw in the trash.
There are a million different ideas to grow racing. But each one tends to get bogged down into a infighting mess, or were non-empirical driven band-aid's in the first place, and nothing ever gets done in a positive fashion. There is zero leadership. Some states and jurisdictions have a chance to do the right thing; but none of us our holding our breath.
There is a metaphorical crystal ball we can gaze into. That crystal ball is New Jersey. The racing industry needs to decide if that is the way it wants the future to look, or if they want it to look something different. It's racings choice; and if they do nothing, they have no one to blame but themselves.
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