In racing, where the status quo is a warm hay bed of safety, historically we have not seen much of this, despite falling handles for over a decade which seem ready-made for such anti-establishment thinking. Racing kind of keeps trudging along, as is, the same way it always has.
But, there are pockets of change, and in 2016 they continue to be interesting.
Kentucky Downs, a track which could charge 21% blended takeout by law, in 2012 asked for something rarely seen in the sport - to go below law and charge less than allowed. That little track finished their meet yesterday with another record handle.
Already a record after Sunday's card, the final numbers reflect an increase of 33.92 percent over last year's previous record total of $16,831,333. On-track handle totaled $929,409, a 48 percent increase over last year's $628,145 total.These aren't the 1% gains that are often trumpeted in a sport where a 1% gain is considered good news. This is shattering.
The Bluegrass state, long dominated by Churchill and Keenelend, has a new player, and they're working some mojo, to the tune of $4 million racecards. Five years ago, they could not muster a million a card.
This little meet then changes some minds.
Canterbury Park is finishing their meet, and they, unlike Kentucky Downs, had some terrible luck this year (like most midwest tracks). "Off turf" seemed to be synonymous with Canterbury, and short fields populated the landscape. Despite that, they will be up, not down, like their regional counterparts.
Canterbury (as with Kentucky Downs) has alternate revenue, and chose to shake things up a bit by changing their betting menu; something simply not seen in other states with copious slot dollars.
These changes did not go unnoticed, and just this week the Meadowlands climbed aboard the change train. For their turf meet, they've gone to 15% across the board takeout. With decent sized fields, this could be a boon for them this season. Perhaps with 20% or more handle increases.
Meanwhile on the institutional side, New Jersey has allowed exchange wagering for customers within the state. Although this is new, there are numerous roadblocks with geo-location, more tracks need to come aboard, and it's off to a slow start, etc, there is change.
In 2016, regulators in New Jersey are less concerned about jockeys falling off a horse in a $100,000 race to lay $150 on their mount on an exchange. There are no old-time racing entities with a toehold to block the new way to bet, simply because they don't own the new way to bet, and someone else does.
These tracks and assorted alphabets are choosing to differentiate themselves and experiment, despite the potential loss of short-term revenue.
"Field tests" and "new mediums to deliver a product to new audiences" are not a phrases used by others, they're being used more and more in racing.
Don't kid yourself. Racing's status quo is still dominant and fully in control (if you think it has an iron-grip in Thoroughbreds, study harness for awhile for a real eye-opener). But there are others in the sport ready, willing and able to try new things; to think beyond the here and now, to do things that challenge industry groupthink.
In 2016, we probably should've expected it.