Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Some will say I assign a lot of the blame for racing's decline on horsemen, perhaps that is true to some extent but don't think for a moment that I absolve racetrack operators from any blame. Far from it, they definitely need to shoulder some responsibility, especially when it comes to the facilities.
Maybe the non-racino tracks have an excuse, the lack of income but for racino operators there is no valid excuse. What am I talking about? Rundown racetrack conditions. Sure they have snazzy casino areas, but for those with their racing areas segregated, some of them looks like Newark, NJ after the race riots of the 1960s. Perhaps it is more succinctly said in Britt Kennedy's Standardbred Canada blog entry from which I quote:
As our tracks made more and more money, the conditions of the facilities got worse and worse..and with absolutely no consequence to the powers that be. It's not our fault these owners ran our tracks into the ground, milked them for all they were worth and put forth an embarrassingly limited effort to attract patrons. Do they honestly think we enjoyed seeing our home tracks fall to pieces before our eyes, getting worse and worse each and every year? Do they think we enjoyed sending our partners, owners and their families to the stands to watch their racehorses compete in grandstands that not only reeked of urine but could barely provide them with a meal? It was an absolute embarrassment.
While Kennedy's blog entry was talking about the conditions in Southwest Ontario, it also applies to tracks in the United States, both standardbred and thoroughbred. I would have argued in enabling legislation for racinos, it should have been mandated that track portions of the facilities be maintained in proper condition if not upgraded but let's face it, the state's could have cared less; it was all about gaining income for the state.
Let's not kid ourselves, the majority of horse racing fans follow the sport from their computers, the days of 40,000 people in a grandstand are long gone. Instead of 12,000 people you are lucky to get 1,200; that on Saturday nights. We talk about gaining new fans/gamblers, but how are you going to get them if they don't go out to the track to see them live? Are they going to say, "Let's go to the track Saturday night and subject ourselves to an evening in the slums"? Of course not.
Racinos were granted the right to operate on the premise it would help support horse racing and that includes keeping the facilities in a condition that is conducive to people attending the races; let's call it a cost of doing business. No, it doesn't need to be up to date like the casino, but it sure means more than applying a coat of paint.
When you go to your local racino, does the track portion of the facility look more like a war zone or a throwback to the disco era? If so, please comment. The only limitation is the track needs to be part of a racino; nominations from all breeds are welcome. When you provide me with your nominations, please list what breed(s) of horse race there. Since some of us go to multiple tracks, you may nominate more than one racetrack. If enough of you respond, I will put a link on the blog home page calling it the 'Racetrack Wall of Shame'.