Why should American racing take concern? Doesn't the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 outlaw online casinos? Not exactly. It prohibits the exchange of money for gambling not legalized by the respective state. This means at present if you live in New Jersey you can not legally engage in any form of online casino gambling for money. However, if the State of New Jersey decided to allow the New Jersey Lottery to run its own online casino, residents of New Jersey would be allowed to gamble in the online casino; a resident of New York would not be allowed to gamble in the New Jersey virtual casino. Right now it is not of immediate concern, but should the federal government repeal the law in an effort to tax illegally wagered gambling proceeds or a state government be searching for sources of revenue, one never knows. While the attempt to legalize online casino gaming would result in a social debate, should online casino gaming be a success in Canada, expect some states to consider the possibility.
With the (r)evolution in gambling in North America it should becoming obvious to all that VLTs are not the end all to ensure racing's continued viability. If steps are not taken to make racing a more attractive product, we will not recognize it in the next twenty years. How do we do it? I don't pretend to know all the answers but here are a few things which can be done to make racing more appealing to the gaming public:
- Free programs. You don't have to buy a program to play the lottery or wager in the casino do you?
- Reduce the minimum wager to $1 for your 'traditional' wagers. You want the entry level to wager to be similar to the lottery and casino games. With more reliance on automated tellers and internet wagering a $1 wager can be profitable for a track. Better a $1 wager on the four horse in the first race than no wager at all.
- Classified racing. You want a slot player to figure out nwXXXXXcd AE: blah blah blah? Give them something then can understand (i.e., A-1, A-2, etc). Especially because you are going to...
- Speed up the races. Ten race card, finish in two hours and don't compete against other tracks in your area. Freehold or Harrington at noon; Yonkers or Monticello at two; Pocono Downs or Tioga Downs at four; Dover Downs or Rosecroft at six; Chester Downs or Meadowlands at 8:00; Balmoral or Maywood at 10:00(eastern time); Cal-Expo at midnight(eastern). Give people enough time to handicap a race but keep the action coming. If at the track, catch the live races, have dinner and then back to wagering on the next track.
- New wagers, easy to understand. Give them wagers which are easy to understand and play. Not all of them need to be Pick6, 7 or 8. Have a double quiniella, double place, double show, triple place, trip show. All different wagers which are more complex than a straight win wager but hittable. It may not pay thousands but let people hit for hundreds and so forth. Have your V75 wager for those looking for the jackpot.
- Lower the takeout. Not only will you get the heavy hitters playing but you will get bigger payoffs which will attract more wagering.
Racing certainly has its challenges but all is not lost. What is needed are leaders from all the stakeholder groups who can think beyond what we did yesterday and today, who can think about what we will do tomorrow. If we live in the past we are doomed. We need to look ahead.