Let's picture that you and I have created a neat game where we throw heavy rocks down an ice sheet to a target. Kind of like shuffleboard on ice (and let's suspend belief that this game has not already been invented yet). We bring our game to the Commissioner of Fitness in the government and we say "this is a good game so people get exercise and we want some help to get it off the ground". The Commissioner says that she agrees and gives us a big fat check for $100 million each year for the next three years to get our game moving.
We'd be pretty ecstatic, and we'd get to work. We'd need to build rocks, and ice sheets, promote this new game with event marketing, try and get onto television and everything else. A the end of the three year period when the money runs out we'd hope that we'd have a TV deal or two to show our championship, that our ice sheets were making money and that we were a self-sustaining sport.
That sounds pie in the sky and probably is. Not even in the US where they've been spending some wild cash on stuff lately would they give $300 million to a game. But in effect, this is exactly what racing in Ontario has in front of them over the next 36 months. The government is prepared to structure the industry with about $300 million over three years. At the end of it, it's sink or swim.
What would you do with $300 million to make sure racing survives? That's the question.
Currently our industry does not have this blank slate mindset. Almost every comment begins with "we used to race for....." or "two years ago we had more purse money ...." or "it's not slots". That mindset has to be extinguished, in my opinion. Racing needs to look at this as an opportunity; an opportunity to create a brand new racing landscape from scratch.
Questions that need to be answered are:
What structure will racing need to survive when the money runs out?
How many racedates are optimal so demand can pay for purses?
Do we need a C circuit in the summer to promote racing with smaller purses?
What will stakes racing look like?
What's the optimal amount of money needed for sires stakes for Ontario breds so a long term breeding industry can feed the funnel?
What's needed for marketing this plan?
Who will be in charge? Who has the government savvy to get things like a horse racing lottery passed?
Who has the knowhow to work with the OLG integration so that horse racing has a chance?
And many more.
The next 36 months has nothing to do with where racing was three years ago, it's all about where racing will be three years from now.
As a litmus test, in these upcoming meetings, if someone brings up what purse some small track raced for three years ago with no handle, and how it needs to be protected and funded, they should be shown the door. They're part of the problem, not the solution. The past is the past and it is not coming back. That's what happens when $350 million per year has gone poof. Nothing can stay the same. It's impossible.
What matters is not where racing has been, but where it will go. We've got $300 million dollars and 36 months to get it right. Racing needs to make the most of it. Tens of thousands of people are depending on you.
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