Years ago, an investor group attempted to open a new race track in Pennsylvania. This track would have been different from the typical race track. There would have been no grandstand as the race track would be used for studio racing. The horses would race, with betting being conducted off track. The Pennsylvania Racing Commission turned this plan down. I imagine people thought whoever came up with this idea was a little bit nuts. Turns out this investor group may have been visionaries ahead of their time.
Now, look at Quebec. In an effort to resume racing in the province, an investor group of owners wants to race at a former training center, racing fifty days this year. No grandstand. People will be welcome to watch the races festival-style out of the back of their vehicles but betting would occur in teletheatres in the province and via ADW wagering (I imagine there may be a few tote machines on site). Purses will be generated by wagering on their races as well as wagers made at their teletheatres and through account wagering in the province. There will be no VLT revenue for horse racing in Quebec.
Not only do I think this plan may work, it may be the future of racing, especially if VLT revenue disappears. It also may be what is needed to reduce the takeout punters are required to pay. Why is the takeout on racing so high? Sure, some of it is greed but even if you eliminated greed, the takeout on horse racing will always be higher than other gaming options due to the expense involved with running a race track. There is the cost involved with having a grandstand (mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, etc.) as well as the employee expenses required. If these expenses were eliminated, the operators of the race meets can afford to take a cut in the take out and still be profitable.
Can't work? The amount of betting being done on-track is continuing to shrink with more handle coming from off track wagering facilities, the Internet and ADWs; this shift will continue as technology improves. Why can't we have race meets at training facilities? Build towers for the patrol judges, a judges’ stand, convert some barns to ship-in and detention barns as well as a paddock. Have a building which will house all the necessary equipment and a few amenities (perhaps some temporary mutuel windows, concession stand, restrooms) as well as adding lighting, if racing at night. Fans are welcome to come to the track and experience racing in a festival setting. Optionally, a harness track can be built inside a thoroughbred track. The facility can be used for training one breed with the other breed coming in just to race.
Let's say a state had a consortium which ran the pari-mutuels within the state. They would operate off-track wagering facilities and they may optionally have their own ADW system. They would 'lease' the training center(s) and run meet(s) there. Purses would come from wagers made through the consortium's facilities (in state and out of state races) as well as wagers made on the consortium's races coming from remote locations and ADWs. Meets can occur at more than one training facility within the state with different size tracks to make the racing more challenging.
Horsemen may not like the idea initially, but considering racing under the current business model is failing in non-racino states, and being propped up by VLTs in the other states, when the VLT revenue is gone, they may have no choice.
Assuming all the approvals are received for the 2010 or 2011 season, all eyes should be focused on what will be happening in Quebec. We may be seeing the future of racing.