No Confidence, No Will & No Passion

If you ask executives in racing what they think about the future, and the business of the sport itself, you usually get answers like:

We have a nice base with slot money, and table games might be coming in, so I'd say the future looks good.

We hope to have poker rooms approved soon.

Our Big Fish unit has been really good.

Sometimes we wonder what business the horse racing business is in.

I read an interview with the Woodbine CEO in the Toronto Sun recently:
  • “Single-game sports betting is a real game-changer and I follow it closely wearing both of my hats,”
  • “Our trick from a horse racing standpoint is to make sure it doesn’t cannibalize what we’re doing. The influx of lotteries and internet gaming and offshore gaming hurts us significantly today. The sport of horse racing has been cannibalized by the lack of enforcement, shall we say, of offshore wagering and the influx of corner store gaming and pro-line gaming. None of that existed 20 years ago. Single-game sports betting, it goes on today and everyone appreciates that and I think it’s a game-changer. The important thing for the horse racing industry is we be part of it."
  • “A game-changer,” Lawson notes, and one that could go a long way in helping Woodbine complete the vision of boosting the number of visitors to the massive 683-acre plot from the current five-to-six million per year, all the way up to 10-12 million, a number that he hopes is five to 10 years away. 
Woodbine has a *monopoly* on internet horse wagering in Canada. No TVG, no Twinspires, no PTC, no Amwager. A monopoly.

If your business had a monopoly on something - say you were the only company that could sell milk to consumers - wouldn't you try to maximize revenues by selling milk? Would you spend your time worrying about selling orange juice, Pepsi or Yoo Hoo? Would you be trying to invite competition - on your property and in your stores, no less - so the sales of your monopoly product decrease?

Horse racing in general has zero confidence in their core gambling product. They believe there's no growth, no way forward; that the game is dead, and old, and not savable.

Maybe they're right. It is unable to be saved. But I wish they'd learn that the products they're asking for to 'save horse racing '- like sports betting - are flourishing because customers pay 4.5% on each bet, and for hundreds of years have been able to scratch out some profit here and there, to keep them coming back. That the slot machines on the floor, or the electronic poker room downstairs would be the ones who need saving if they jacked the takeout rates to 26%.

It appears Woodbine will keep adding surcharges to simulcast races, look for every nickel and every dime from customers, encouraging them to wager offshore, encouraging them to use their bankrolls on sports betting, or poker. Then, when their handle continues to struggle, they'll wistfully wonder why horse racing is so dead.

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