It seems every time we open a news story on racing, it's about slots, or gaming. In Ontario, slots are being expanded without any help to racetracks - by the looks of it - and even full casinos will be coming online. In Ohio, a first racino is opening at Scioto Downs. In Illinois, the state house approved expanded slots gaming just this week.
A lot of people are excited about the positives of the above, but it got me thinking, how long can this last?
I was at a gaming conference a few years ago, presenting about new forms of wagering. On my panel was a professional player and the Managing Director of Betfair at the time, Mark Davies. Not long after we finished I had asked Mark if he could hang out and chat some horse racing, and how it was doing on betfair, etc. The professional player, Mark and I sat down and had a nice talk.
At one point, the pro - who works numbers constantly, is super-bright, and is generally right about a lot of things gambling related - said to us:
"I think slots have about ten more years. They're going to be saturated and younger people will get tired of losing all their money."
That stuck with me. On this Friday, when I see their proliferation, it makes me wonder. One day, not long from now will slot parlors be one big empty chasm? Where will governments go for easy money if it happens? What will the younger generations of slots players be playing instead if so?
It's why I have firmly believed that horseracing needs to carve out its niche - we need to have smart, dedicated people playing our sport, via every means possible: Futures markets, betfair, on-track, off-track, fixed odds, fractional wagering; the whole kitchen sink.
Young people do not want to learn racing, as racing is presented to them, so we need to be aggressive in presenting it to them in the way they want it presented. The more people we attract now to play via various mechanisms will be there when people get tired of slots. If they want to learn and come over, we need to ensure we're open for business, right now, not in the future.
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